On Labor Day yesterday, we ran a series of photographs from six regions of the country, each answering an underlying question as aspirational as it is achievable: What does it look like when people are their own bosses? You can see the answers here.
It’s a striking portrait—commissioned by Mother Jones in collaboration with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and Solutions Journalism Network—of how co-ops are returning power to workers in North Carolina, Alabama, Vermont, California, and other areas where labor rights is a paramount movement of civil rights. “It’s no wonder,” writes the author, Alissa Quart, “that people are drawn to a model that gives them back some power” in an era of “epic income inequality” and “corporate consolidation and union-busting” that reliably produce “unstable and episodic” work. The interest in co-ops marks a return to what one worker in the series calls making a “livelihood” rather than just earning a paycheck.
To sustain a co-op, the portrait shows, is to be freer of the grasping, capricious moves of top-down profiteers who’d sooner vacation in space on rank-and-file dime and moonwalk in the media about it than invest more meaningfully in worker safety, security, health, productivity, and hope. Give the photos a look.