New Cornell Industrial & Labor Relations Buffalo Co-Lab Report Outlines Policies For ‘The Next Generation Of Work’
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - The economy is at a critical moment and not just because of COVID-19. Staggering income inequality is at its height and gender and racial wealth gaps abound. The solution: Next Generation Enterprises (NGEs), according to Cornell Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR) Buffalo Co-Lab’s newly-released study - Building “Next Generation” Democratic Workplaces to Reduce Inequality and Empower Workers, featuring data from Western New York.
“The current (economic) system has sustained rewards for businesses operating under the guidance of self-interest and profit maximization,” says the report’s author, Russell Weaver. “It’s easy to imagine why poor outcomes are emerging when these are the guiding values.”
NGEs, alternatively, prioritize Democratic Employee Ownership, Worker influence in decision-making, business accountability in creating public benefits, and deep inclusion for marginalized persons.
Buffalo-Niagara hosts “building blocks” of NGEs, including Labor Unions, Worker-owned enterprises, and social mission businesses.
This mixed methods case study of Western New York found evidence that Worker Power and ownership in firms is strongly associated with higher wages across sectors and for Workers of Color and Women including: 77.3% of Workers in Private Sector Unionized Firms earn $40,000 per year or more, compared to 51.0% of all other Workers in the same census tracts; 53.8% of Workers in firms with Employee Stock Ownership Plans identify as Persons of Color, compared to 14.3% of all other Workers in the same census tracts; Private sector wages for Workers of Color and Women are higher in census tracts with Unionized and/or Employee-owned firms compared to tracts without these “building block” institutions.
Andrew Delmonte, a local leader from the regional cooperative movement, cited intentionally growing their ventures with group solidarity and combating inequality in mind.
“(Worker cooperatives) mobilize Workers to achieve economic stability through cooperative business ownership, generating wealth and power in communities most affected by inequality,” Delmonte said.
The study recommends mechanisms at the Federal, state and local level for ushering in a new era of businesses.
Policies include: Reform Federal Labor Law (For example, pass the Workplace Democracy Act and the PRO Act); Grant Employees a “right of first refusal” to collectively purchase their companies when owners wish to sell and create a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank to facilitate Employee firm acquisitions; Establish a statewide Center for Worker Ownership (For example, pass New York Senate Bill S2184); Adopt an Economic Development Accountability Act (EDAA); and Provide an NGE Tax Incentive.
The full report is available on the Buffalo Commons Digital Library: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/72909/Building%20Next%20Generation%20Democratic%20Workplaces.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y