The state of platform cooperativism
Smart Austria proudly participated in the tenth digital labour conference in New York
700 participants and 150 speakers from 30 countries gathered at the New School in NYC for three days to discuss current developments in platform cooperativism. And we took part.
So many inspiring stories were shared that it’s impossible to give a complete overview – among them were: truck drivers of South Africa who unite to counter corruption and mismanagement of ports (Truckers for Unity); fired food delivery riders in Barcelona who establish their own cooperatively run business (Mensakas), and their colleages in France who create a common structure for coops like this all over Europe (CoopCylce); chronic disease patients who are tired of health products being designed without companies hearing patients‘ voices or giving back any of the profits made (Savvy); Venice residents who resist the Disneyfication of their city (Fairbnb); waste collectors in Brazil connecting up to clients and each other via an open source platform (Cataki); the collective power of hundreds of thousands of women workers in India (SEWA); worker-owned app-based taxi coops (Cotabo in Bologna – since 1967! – and Eva in Montreal); cities who aim to achieve independence from financial capitalism and create real local resilience (Preston); and whole coop federations with long-standing histories (Japan Cooperative Alliance or U.S. National Cooperative Business Association).
Coops are worker- and user-owned companies that rely on democratic decision-making. Platforms are online applications or websites used to connect workers and users.
Trebor Scholz, initiator of the Platform Cooperativism Consortium, laid out his vision for the world in 2035: He scrutinized how coops can change course of our economies, away from extractivism, towards inclusion and self-determination – especially for workers in often marginalised sectors, such as home services, beauty work, elder care or taxi driving.
“Your work is so important, whether it is only on paper yet or in the management of large-scale businesses, because you collectively set expectations for the future, help overcome doubt, commit resources and, ultimately, change tens of thousands of lives.”
We heard movement updates from the UK, Japan, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Italy, Austria (represented by Smart Austria’s very own Sabine Kock and Lisa Pointner) and Hong Kong. We watched the performative intervention We are all animals, a children’s strike, that ended with a clear message from the kids to the grown-ups:
“You made this mess, now you clean it up!”
We discussed the potentials of labour unions and coops uniting to fight for worker’s rights to secure, dignified jobs that earn a living (Labour Power for the Platform Economy! Digital Work is Not Free, with Sabine Kock); how to counter toxic media discourses in a post-factual world (Wrestling Back Independence with Media Co-ops, with Sabine Kock); and how important it is to balance democratic community building and sustainable business development (Cooperation: Best Practices, with Lisa Pointner).
“Philantropy is withheld wages and withheld taxes. Facebook philantropy is both money not given to users for their digital assets and money they didn’t have to pay in taxes, because it’s tax deductions – so it is subsidised by tax payers who have to make up for that shortfall.”
We networked, celebrated, slept too little, and returned home with a reinforced conviction that the cooperative model can really make a change for more inclusive and just economies. And that it is worth all the effort.
Who owns the world?
The state of platform cooperativism
Organised by Trebor Scholz with Michael McHugh and Angela Difede
Hosted by PCC Platform Cooperativism Consortium and The New School
7–9 November 2019, New York City
Program: https://platform.coop/events/conference-2019/ (see program details for file swap folders)
Video recordings: https://livestream.com/internetsociety/platformcoop2019
Photo documentation: https://www.flickr.com/photos/treborscholz/albums/72157711739075488
The next PCC conference will focus on ‘cooperative commons’ and will be held November 12–14 2020 in Berlin. Join us!