Archive | April 20, 2015

Worker Co-Ops Moving Beyond Capitalism*

Worker Co-Ops Moving Beyond Capitalism*

By David Morgan

The explosion of worker cooperatives in recent years has social justice organizers talking. Transitioning to a people-powered economy will require the work of many different social movements and worker co-ops have come to the center of the conversation due to their ability to address multiple issues at once.

These democratically owned and controlled businesses serve as a laboratory for reinventing our economy and many overlapping social movements are combining forces in the experiment. A new documentary, Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time, shows the potential of a networked worker co-op movement and activists across the country are embracing the film as a way to form new alliances.

We – GRITtv and the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA) – created the film and are coordinating a nationwide series of screenings with local activists. At TESA, we have also designed additional educational tools that speak to these audiences and that local organizers can use to further their efforts. The Toolbox for Education and Social Action provides each screening host with a discussion guide for use at the event. We also offer how-to guides to getting a worker cooperative started, like readiness evaluations, resource mapping exercises, and more. The film and educational materials are helping turn conversations into action in many communities.

Labor organizers have been quick to recognize the value of Own the Change. The first in the series of screenings was hosted in Detroit two weeks after the film’s launch. Co-op developers and educators hosted the event as part of a coalition of diverse groups. Three co-op organizations joined with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Jobs With Justice. “It seemed that showing this film would be an ideal program for one of our monthly get-togethers,” says Mike Friedman of the Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE).

Own the Change joins other labor-led efforts in Detroit to support the burgeoning worker co-op movement. Jobs with Justice has poured resources into co-op education, hosting a three-part series on what labor can learn from worker-owned enterprises that also included the participation of United Food and Commercial Workers, C2BE, and Colors Co-op Academy.

Surprisingly, unions and cooperatives haven’t always been friends; they have a complicated, even turbulent history. At certain points, the antagonism was so sharp that union shops thought co-ops were stealing jobs away from the labor movement. These days, however, labor is evolving rapidly and trying out new forms of organizing. They’ve come to see cooperatives as economic development engines and a new organizational form has emerged: the union co-op. It is one of many responses to the assault that lawmakers in many places have launched against unions.

One of the most discussed offenders, Wisconsin, has seen its state government dismantle its citizens’ right to organize in the workplace – but meanwhile cities like Madison have provided millions in support to worker co-op development. In a recent interview, Paul Soglin, the mayor of Madison, commented on the city’s new Cooperative Enterprise Development (CED) initiative: “Building a great local economy is not reserved for white males,” he said.

“We’re hoping this will be part of our economic development strategy in areas where there’s food insecurity, where there isn’t a concentration of jobs, and where significant numbers of households are below the poverty line.”

Rebecca Kemble, president of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and a worker-owner at Union Cab Cooperative of Madisonranfor Madison Common Council on a people-centered economic development platform that includes strong support for the CED initiative. In Own the Change she highlighted the importance of building strong networks of cooperative businesses saying, “Just as an individual co-op enterprise can only be successful if there’s good relationships amongst the members, the co-op movement as a whole can only exist as a movement if the co-op businesses are engaged in these ever-expanding layers and levels of networks and cooperating with each other.”

She added, “The film and educational materials offer a chance for new and experienced cooperators to work with community organizations and civic leaders to build a new economy.”

Local civic leaders in other municipalities are also embracing worker cooperatives as a way to localize economic development, especially in the pinch felt after the 2008 economic crisis. Cooperators in New York City recently made gains when their city councilors approved the largest pledge of government support for worker cooperative business development in U.S. history. The $1.2 million award will fund the development and expansion of new and existing worker cooperatives.

Members of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, the coalition that won this campaign, came together at the debut screening of Own the Change to strategize, educate, and celebrate their recent victory. Hosted by the filmmakers, the event included panel presentations by organizations as diverse as a social services agency and an educational nonprofit. One presenter, Vanessa Bransburg, says that her agency, The Center for Family Life, a program of SCO Family of Services, views worker cooperatives as a necessary support structure for the low-income and immigrant families they serve.

“Tools like Own the Change give us the opportunity to share our unique approach to providing cooperative development incubation services and enable us to connect with other like-minded organizations,” she said.

Own the Change speaks to the diverse audiences that make up the movement for economic justice and will no doubt galvanize the partnerships and alliances that use the film. Social movements that grow and incorporate a variety of viewpoints have staying power, and, thanks to Own the Change and many other efforts, new economy activism is blossoming with this kind of activity.


Related Topics:

How America’s Largest Worker Owned Co-Op Lifts People Out of Poverty*

Debt-ocracy: Enslaving Entire Nations and Peoples*

How Students Transformed $6 Billion Corporatization of their University*

Only 8, but He Raised $20,000 So Fellow Students Could Eat Lunch*

We Societies

Vermont Towns Vote to Start a Public Bank that Works for Them*

FBI Admits Falsifying Evidence for Decades*

FBI Admits Falsifying Evidence for Decades*

By Spencer S. Hsu

Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (L) and Christopher Darden (2nd L) and FBI agent Douglas Deedrick stand at a chart showing hair samples during the O.J. Simpson double murder trial


The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favoured prosecutors in more than 95% of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

The FBI errors alone do not mean there was no other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District of Columbia are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.

The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the U.S. courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.

In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, commended the FBI and department for the collaboration but said,

“The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

“We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn’t stopped much sooner,” Neufeld said.

Norman Reimer, the NACDL’s executive director, said,

“Hopefully, this project establishes a precedent so that in future situations it will not take years to remediate the injustice.”

While unnamed federal officials previously acknowledged widespread problems, the FBI until now has withheld comment because findings might not be representative.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a former prosecutor, called on the FBI and Justice Department to notify defendants in all 2,500 targeted cases involving an FBI hair match about the problem even if their case has not been completed, and to redouble efforts in the three-year-old review to retrieve information on each case.

These findings are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system, not only for potentially innocent defendants who have been wrongly imprisoned and even executed, but for prosecutors who have relied on fabricated and false evidence despite their intentions to faithfully enforce the law,” Blumenthal said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, urged the bureau to conduct “a root-cause analysis” to prevent future breakdowns.

“It is critical that the Bureau identify and address the systemic factors that allowed this far-reaching problem to occur and continue for more than a decade,” the lawmakers wrote FBI Director James Comey on March 27, as findings were being finalized.

The FBI is waiting to complete all reviews to assess causes but has acknowledged that hair examiners until 2012 lacked written standards defining scientifically appropriate and erroneous ways to explain results in court. The bureau expects this year to complete similar standards for testimony and lab reports for 19 forensic disciplines.

Federal authorities launched the investigation in 2012 after The Washington Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s, typically for murder, rape and other violent crimes nationwide.

The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of “matches” of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.

In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same. Since 2000, the lab has used visual hair comparison to rule out someone as a possible source of hair or in combination with more accurate DNA testing.

Warnings about the problem have been mounting. In 2002, the FBI reported that its own DNA testing found that examiners reported false hair matches more than 11% of the time. In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder.

University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett said the results reveal a “mass disaster” inside the criminal justice system, one that it has been unable to self-correct because courts rely on outdated precedents admitting scientifically invalid testimony at trial and, under the legal doctrine of finality, make it difficult for convicts to challenge old evidence.

“The tools don’t exist to handle systematic errors in our criminal justice system,” Garrett said. “The FBI deserves every recognition for doing something really remarkable here. The problem is there may be few judges, prosecutors or defense lawyers who are able or willing to do anything about it.”

Federal authorities are offering new DNA testing in cases with errors, if sought by a judge or prosecutor, and agreeing to drop procedural objections to appeals in federal cases.

However, biological evidence in the cases often is lost or unavailable. Among states, only California and Texas specifically allow appeals when experts recant or scientific advances undermine forensic evidence at trial.

Defense attorneys say scientifically invalid forensic testimony should be considered as violations of due process, as courts have held with false or misleading testimony.

The FBI searched more than 21,000 federal and state requests to its hair comparison unit from 1972 through 1999, identifying for review roughly 2,500 cases where examiners declared hair matches.

Reviews of 342 defendants’ convictions were completed as of early March, the NACDL and Innocence Project reported. In addition to the 268 trials in which FBI hair evidence was used against defendants, the review found cases in which defendants pleaded guilty, FBI examiners did not testify, did not assert a match or gave exculpatory testimony.

When such cases are included, by the FBI’s count examiners made statements exceeding the limits of science in about 90 percent of testimonies, including 34 death-penalty cases.

The findings likely scratch the surface. The FBI said as of mid-April that reviews of about 350 trial testimonies and 900 lab reports are nearly complete, with about 1,200 cases remaining.

The bureau said it is difficult to check cases before 1985, when files were computerized. It has been unable to review 700 cases because police or prosecutors did not respond to requests for information.

Also, the same FBI examiners whose work is under review taught 500 to 1,000 state and local crime lab analysts to testify in the same ways.

Texas, New York and North Carolina authorities are reviewing their hair examiner cases, with ad hoc efforts underway in about 15 other states.


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Assata Shakur: FBI’s Most Wanted After Thirty-Four Years!

U.S. Wants to Extradite from Cuba FBI’s Most Wanted*

The Black Stereotype: Socially Engineered in the FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Real Black Leaders*

If Terrorism is Such a Grave Threat, Why Does the FBI Keep Manufacturing Plots?

From Thief to FBI Agent trained in the tenets of Islam*

Detention in the U.S. without Sunlight

Deputy Police Chief Identified as KKK by the FBI*

Former Head of FBI Speaks on Rothschild, Illuminati, Satanism, Paedophile Rings = NWO

Greek Neo-Nazi Party Trial Begins On Hitler’s Birthday*

Greek Neo-Nazi Party Trial Begins On Hitler’s Birthday*

In a special built courtroom and under draconian security measures, one of Greece’s most important political trials against current and former MPs and members of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn started on Monday morning. Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and 68 other defenders stand trial on felony charges for having established a criminal organization, having committed several racists attacks and murder and the procession of weapons.

The trial takes place in a special courtroom built inside high security prison Korydallos in western Athens, with several antifascists groups and GD supporters to have gathered outside the prison. In addition, groups of local authorities, traders and parents organizations had gathered to protest the trial in their suburb, claiming ‘disturbance of the everyday life’.

The trial began short after 9 o’ clock Monday morning in a courtroom packed with people many of them without a sitting opportunity.

25 of the main defenders, including GD leader Michaloliakos and 14 former and current MPs, being absent and represented by their lawyers. The defenders deny charges claiming that the trial was “politically motivated.”

The indictment is in fact against 70 defenders, however one of them has recently passed away, while a second one is a minor.

131 witnesses have been called to testify.

Murdered Pavlos Fyssas

Present are also the parents of Pavlos Fyssas, the 34-year-old leftist rapper who was stabbed to death by GD member Giorgos Roupakias on 17 September 2013. Roupakias had claimed that he was never a registered member of GD.

It was Fyssas’ murder that forced Samaras’ government to take measures against the political party, put its leadership in custody and significantly reduce racist attacks against migrants.

Trial adjourned until May 7th

Two hours later the trial was interrupted and it is adjourned until May 7th 2015  for “procedural reasons.” One of the defenders appeared in the trial without a lawyer, the court had to appoint one and he on his turn needed time to read the indictment. Some wonder whether it was a tactical move by the GD in order to adjourn the trial.

Witness and antifa protester attacked by GD supporters

Outside Korydallos prison, the atmosphere is tense between GD supporters and anti-fascists groups

Outside Korydallos prison, the atmosphere is tense between GD supporters and antifascists groups.

According to media, antifa groups the deputy major of Korydallos and hospital doctors, two people were slightly injured outside Korydallos prison by Golden Dawn supporters and were transferred to the hospital. Both have face and head injuries. The man is a witness to testify for the murder of his friend, Pavlos Fyssas. The woman is an antifa protester.

There are also reports that a lawmaker from To Potami was attacked by a group of people wearing hoods as he was walking to the court. Anti-authoritarians have reportedly beat a GD supporter.

Golden Dawn remains strong

Golden Dawn, a marginal far-right party of 0.1% – 0.3% in elections, catapulted to 7% in 2012 and became 5th in the Greek Parliament with its anti-austerity and anti-migrants policies. The provocative behavior of GD MPs in and outside the Parliament, their openly spoken insults and bullying attitude towards the Greek political system had secured them loyal voters amid the most severe economic crisis that had hit Greece.

In October 2013, 16 Golden Dawn MPs, including the party leader, were taken one after the other into custody. They were released in March 2015, after they had spent 18 months in custody without trial.

Despite the fact that the majority of its MPs were in custody during January 2015 elections, Golden Dawn remained strong even though it has suffered some losses. It was again third party with 6.3% and elected 17 MPs to the Greek Parliament.

GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos

The trial against the party of Golden Dawn is considered as one of the biggest political trials in Greece after restoration of democracy in 1974.

Defenders, lawyers, witnesses, journalists, representative of unions, a total of 1,000 people are been squeezed in the courtroom which is too small for a trial of such level. Some attendees had been standing during the two-hour session. The issue of the courtroom may be taken up on May 7th.

The trial is expected to last several months.

Some considered that justice had attempted to make a joke with Golden Dawn by setting the beginning of the trial on April 20th, the day the neo-nazis commemorate Hitler’s birthday.


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Greece’s New Left Government Better be Prepared for a Battle with the Oligarchy*

Neo-Nazis Tricked into Raising Money for anti-Nazi Charity*

European Central Bank Forcing Greece into Perpetual Debt*

From New York to Greece ‘We Can’t Breathe’*

Greece Prepares for Humanitarian Aid for Greeks*

Neo-Nazis Help Israel Block Recognition of Palestine*

Nazism Back in Europe

Bilderberg Founder a former Member of the Nazi Party*

Ukrainian Neo-Nazi Commander Trained in U.S.*