Saturday, May 03, 2008

The path to sustainability

We are going to have to balance two important priorities within the Democratic Party platform. Those priorities are Localization and Unionization.

Localization means what you are describing, and is the best way to foster businesses that we can actually influence into following a sustainable model. I had not heard of the NBIS before now, and I'm really impressed. The story of what is happening in Hoquiam and the surrounding area is a great story that needs to be repeated all across the country. It's what BALLE has been trying to push, and what David Korten describes as an answer and solution to the current problems that are showing up due to inherent flaws in the design of capitalist economies around the world.

Unionization is getting the workers involved in the operation and high level decisions of the company. Traditionally, this is done through a union, thus the name. But unions can and have become exclusive to their membership and separate from their real goal, in my opinion. The goal of a union should not simply be to advance the rights and wages of workers. If that is the only focus, the organization has lost its way. The real goal should be to advance the needs of the community within which a company operates. This includes, but is not limited to, the rights and wages of workers. It also includes sustainability, local business networks, the community service industries, and the health and well being of the environment as well as the people. The conservative frame for unions is "all they care about is higher costs for employers". We must change that frame into "they care about our entire community, not just the bottom line". We have to challenge our business leaders and financial investors to meet goals of a triple bottom line, where profits are balanced with community and environmental gains.

I've seen these two core concepts at odds with each other both within the party and in the outside world. The unions are a great source for fundraising and electioneering. But because we have been subject to the conservative frames for the last 30 years in the media, it's difficult to help them find a bigger goal than just the next contract negotiation or the next election cycle. We need a movement that breaks out of those boxes into the overall mesh of how our communities operate and communicate. The leadership of the party, the union and the businesses are elected or self selected to focus on their specific responsibilities, like contract negotiations, elections and running organizations and businesses. What I would love to see is for the grassroots members of all of these types of structures openly collaborating outside of those boxes. We don't want to, and don't need to, threaten the people in leadership positions when we do that. We just need to be the ones to lead the way, building the foundation for the progressive movement, pulling our society towards a future that we want to live in.

No comments: