In addition to the account below of the points made by featured speaker Gar Alperovitz, Beaver County’s Carl Davidson joined with Rob Witherell of the United Steel Workers in leading a workshop on the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain and their growing influence in the US, including cooperative enterprises in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Heard off the Street: Economist touts employee-owned companies
By Len Boselovic
March 23, 2014 – Political economist and historian Gar Alperovitz was in Pittsburgh last week, promoting the idea of rebuilding communities through cooperatives, employee-owned companies and other economic models that he believes would create a more democratic, equitable, sustainable economy.
“One of the things about employee-owned companies that people don’t focus on is that they don’t move,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons why this new model makes economic and political sense.”
Mr. Alperovitz, who was the featured speaker at a three-day event celebrating Pittsburgh’s new economy, said many of the topics discussed during the event can be traced back to Youngstown, Ohio, in September 1977, when Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced it was closing its mill there. The news devastated the Mahoning Valley economy, putting 5,000 steelworkers out of work and marking the start of seismic upheavals that wrought havoc in the Mon Valley and other Rust Belt communities.
“Youngstown faced the problems other cities are facing now,” said Mr. Alperovitz, who was enlisted in an ill-fated attempt by the mill workers to buy their company.
Even though the effort failed, he said, it laid the groundwork for future employee buyouts, cooperatives and other forms of collaborative ownership that are helping to revive communities following the Great Recession.
“All of that is traceable to that fight,” he said.