Putting ‘share’ back into the sharing economy: the social solidarity economy

Recently the Uber ride app was activated in Windsor immediately threatening the livelihoods of some 300 unionized cab drivers in the city. Over the New Year holiday many complaints were heard in Windsor over the cost of rides, and this seems to have prompted the mayor to talk about regulating Uber.

Uber is backed by venture capitalists and worth tens of billions of dollars. As with typical capitalist enterprises it’s only a small group of shareholders who profit while the rest of us struggle to make a living amongst all the disruption.

Going deeper, in November-December on The ShakeUp, I attempted to examine the roots of the Uber phenomenon and its claim to be an element of  the sharing economy. Many see app platforms as a way to disrupt traditional systems (like cab rides and hotels) that need to give way to new forms of organizing work. However, what is being disrupted by the likes of Uber is the ability of workers to make a living wage. A wild west sort of world is being created as this article points out alleging sabotage tactics by Uber against a rival. It seems that the Uber-ization of app technology will  turn us all into contingent contract workers driving everybody to a wage so low no one could make a living in an unregulated maze of anything goes. It doesn’t have to be this way.

A true sharing economy  could be one based on principles of mutual aid and cooperativism. A sharing economy would also be based locally while also connected to the broader world. Instead of globalization, it could be internationalism where national and local economies are allowed to flourish. Instead, globalization is resulting in a new colonialism where local economies must serve a global market with the cheapest goods and services possible. While wages have risen in supplier countries, workers still struggle for the right to organize for better wages and working conditions. This was always the fallacy of free trade and globalization: some pockets of workers have better lives, but they can only make a living making cheap goods for consumption in the west.

In a series of conversations below, I attempted to illustrate how workers and governments could use the same app technology as the venture capitalists to form a true sharing economy, through what Trebor Scholz has termed “Platform Cooperativism”(described below) in order to build a new economy and society:

Episode 1 aired on The ShakeUp November 6, 2015:

Sharing is a very human thing to do and the working class and people in poverty and/or marginalized communities have always found sharing and cooperativism crucial for meeting needs and building community. Uber is private company worth, it is said, $18 billion and backed by venture capital. It is subject to the cool factor where urban dwellers have more choice and ease in finding transportation that is supposed to be less expensive and hassle-free than a cab ride. In the crossfire are cab drivers who make a living wage and feel under direct threat of losing their livelihoods. In Windsor Uber could be a disaster for 320 cabbies recently in the news voicing their concerns over the mayor’s exuberant support of Uber. So, where is the sharing – who gets to take part in the sharing, and if these enterprises are backed by millionaire venture capitalists where does sharing come in at all? How is Uber any different from any other corporate entity? Tawanna Dillahunt is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and co-author of “The Promise of the Sharing Economy among Disadvantaged Communities” that explored how low income and marginalized people encounter the sharing economy. She is also the principal investigator of The Social Innovation Group that seeks to “design, build and enhance innovative technologies to solve real-world problems.” The paper investigated the “perception and feasibility of finding temporary employment and sharing spare resources using sharing-economy applications in a city [like Windsor] suffering economic decline.”


Episode 2: also aired November 6, 2015

Tom Slee is a Waterloo based writer on technology and society. Recently his writing has focused on profit, openness, and sharing in the digital world. He wrote “No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart” and his most recent book is “What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy”


Episode 3 aired on The ShakeUp November 13, 2015:

“Eli Feghali is the Director of Communications and Online Organizing for the New Economy Coalition. He is a Lebanese-American who has spent the majority of his professional life working as a communications specialist and community organizer. He has particular expertise in strategic communications, press relations, new media strategy, and web design.”

“Michael Toye became Executive Director of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) in August of 2008, bringing a deep background in community economic development (CED) to the Director’s chair. Upon earning his Master of Social Work at McGill, Michael helped set up two worker co-operatives that provide research, consulting and training services related to CED and the social economy.”
In the following segement I conversed with Toye and Feghali on the solidarity economy:


Episode 4: Platform Cooperativism. (Aired on The ShakeUp Dec, 4 2015)

Trebor Scholz:

“It’s a call to workers, designers, and developers. It’s up to you: the blue pill or, well, you know the Matrix story — the red.

There has been backlash against unethical labor practices in the “collaborative sharing economy” because of an utter lack of concern for the workers. Take, for example, Uber’s app, with all its geo-location and ride ordering capabilities. Corporate owners and shareholders do not have to be the main benefactors of such platform-based labor brokerage. How to dodge Uber and put a worker-owned cooperative or unionized labor pool in their place?

Imagine, just for one moment, that the algorithmic heart of the citadels of anti-unionism could be cloned and brought back to life under a different ownership model, with fair working conditions, as a humane alternative to the free market model.”

Trebor Scholz is Associate Professor of Culture & Media Studies at the New School New York City and a convenor of the recent conference on Platform Cooperativism. I spoke with him on the concept of Platform Cooperativism:


On November 13-14 in New York City a “coming out part for the Internet: was held in the form of a conference on Platform Cooperativism:

Click on image for video

Click on image for video



And coming this spring to Detroit: North American Social Solidarity Economy Forum  Register HERE

Briefly: “RIPESS-NA (Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy-N. America) initiated the process of organizing this forum. RIPESS-NA members include these national networks: the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN), the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNET) and the Chantier de l’économie Sociale in Quebec.”

Further Reading:

Trebor Scholz, “Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy”
• Nathan Schneider, “Owning Is the New Sharing,” Shareable (December 21, 2014)
• Janelle Orsi, Frank Pasquale, Nathan Schneider, Pia Mancini, Trebor Scholz, “5 Ways to Take Back Tech,” The Nation (May 27, 2015)
• Nathan Schneider, “Owning What We Share,” Pacific Standard (September 1, 2015)


March 6 2015: Perspectives on International Women’s Day 2015

March 8th was International Women’s Day, a commemoration going back over 100 years, and according to the website dedicated to the day, “International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.”

Hagar Farag, Mireille Coral, and Theresa Sims in the CJAM studios March 6th 2015

Hagar Farag, Mireille Coral, and Theresa Sims in the CJAM studios March 6th 2015

You can find out more on the history of IWD and how it was born out of women’s struggle to escape oppression and inequality – a struggle in tandem with the workers movement in general against the ravages of capitalist exploitation: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPnJNPnF9qU

On Friday, March 6th I had in the CJAM 99.1FM studio Theresa Sims a Six Nations Mohawk and member of the Turtle Clan, Hagar Farag, a graduate studies student at the University of Windsor studying the militarization of North American police forces, and Mireille Coral an activist educator and alumni of University of Windsor. She was also one of the founders of the Womyn’s Centre at the university in the 1980’s.

They spoke about personal experiences as women, politics, identity, and who shapes the narrative around issues like, for instance, dress, culture, and what is important to talk about.

We attempted to create a cross section of women’s experiences for a discussion and to start off it was thought each could have a few minutes to describe their encounters in the world as women and the significance of IWD to start off the discussion.

The program is The ShakeUp, a project of OPIRG Windsor airing Friday’s at 4PMEDT

Statement on Bonduelle’s decision to pull its Tecumseh re-zoning application

This is part of my on – air commentary this afternoon after 4:30 PM on The ShakeUp Campus Community Radio program on CJAM 99.1FM. It is a response to various local media reports  (and Here) in reaction to Bonduelle’s decision to pull its re-zoning application:

On Wednesday Bonduelle announced it was withdrawing its application to Tecumseh Town Council for a re-zoning of a portion of their property so they could house up to 60 migrant workers in a renovated office building.

The company claimed that having the workers live on site would be safer for the workers, and that since migrant workers are housed on site at greenhouse operations and farms they should be able to do the same on the processing plant site. It should be stressed here that food processing plants are NOT farms or greenhouse operations – they are more akin to factories.

On behalf of the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre, and with representatives from Legal Assistance Windsor and Justicia for Migrant Workers, I was a delegation at a public meeting in Tecumseh in January where we argued against the re-zoning application. Here is a summary of the main arguments:

  • The re-zoning is contrary to the Town’s own master plan
  • The diagram produced by the company was not to scale and it was unclear the living arrangements would be adequate for the number of workers proposed
  • Having workers housed on a plant that suffered a major fire last year is obviously not a safe option
  • Workers will be segregated from the rest of the community and from allies who can advocate on their behalf
  • Isolated workers are less likely to speak up in the workplace in defence of their rights
  • The company would have total control over the movement of the workers and it is not clear visitors would be able to access company private company – this is uncomfortably close to indentureship
  • The plan is to hire only males for the bunk house which is a discriminatory practice
  • Migrant workers seem to be good enough to work here but not live in the community in which they play a crucial economic role.
  • What we should be talking about is a Migrant Workers Bill of Rights such as the one proposed by the Ontario Federation of Labour (more about that in a minute)

At the public meeting some residents expressed concerns about having Black men near their backyards and in the community. This racist thinking was a minority expression at the public meeting. The people who were recognized as delegates, including Adrian Munro, a migrant worker, spoke to the points I’ve just outlined. As worker advocates we recognize that migrant workers are a feature of a globalized economy that wreaks havoc on local communities around the world. We speak of the loss of the middle class in our country yet the global south achieves only great inequality between rich and destitute. To survive means to travel thousands of miles from home to make a living. Migrant deserve our solidarity not racist indentureship. Our goal as worker advocates is to make social and political changes so migrant workers are not treated as second class workers. In other words, just because the global economy treats workers as mere inputs doesn’t mean we as workers ourselves have to play into that system.

Tecumseh and similar area towns are small communities in a globalized economy; an economy that relies on low wages and low corporate taxes; an economy that is run by private investors who seek maximum profit achieved almost entirely on the backs of workers and communities deprived of fair tax revenues. A proper response in communities should not be to treat workers like garden rakes and house them in what amounts to sheds in between shifts, or to react with racist indignation to migrant workers. The response required is a political one where workers and their representatives, citizens, business leaders and political leaders carve out a coherent Canadian labour strategy in contrast to the ‘wild west’ investor run “casino economy” that pits us against each other. A start would be a community discussion on the 8 point proposed Migrant Workers Bill of Rights… (pp 18 – 19 MWBR).

Aired: Nov 21 2014: The “Good” Muslim: Changing the Narrative

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Since the killings of Canadian Soldiers in Quebec and Ottawa many in this country are waiting to see what kind of laws and surveillance measures the Harper regime will come up with in order to keep the public “safe” from terror. In the resulting narrative all eyes, at least in the media, shift to Muslim communities where we are supposed to hear condemnations of terrorists and ISIS and so on.

There seems to be pressure to prove one is a “good” Muslim, even as it should be abundantly clear that the killers of the soldiers were misdirected loners who lost their way in the most tragic sense. Then there are the young men and some women according to reports who have left Canada and other countries of the west to fight in Syrian and Iraq. Then the narrative is one of if they come back will they carry out violent acts at home.

On Wednesday, Nov. 19  I met with two University of Windsor students to have a discussion on this topic of the good Muslim and the need to change the dominant narrative that has Muslim communities in Windsor and elsewhere going to great lengths to prove they are good Canadians: Hagar Farag is a graduate student working on her thesis: “The Militarization of North American Police and the Effects on Minorities”, and Mohammed Almoayad is an undergrad student in Political Science.

In the conversation they really challenge not only Muslim communities, but all of us to resist the dominant narrative that forces Muslims to prove they are worthy citizens.

They challenge all Canadians to wake up to the reality of Canadian foreign policy that has directly or indirectly caused massive suffering in Muslim countries, yet Canadians remain surprised that young men and women would go off to fight:

(For an electronic copy of the audio, contact the author in the comment section)

Thursday, November 27th, the Ahmadiyya Muslims Students’ Association Presents: Stop the CrISIS

The association states on the Facebook event page that : “In the wake of the tragedies in Ottawa and Montreal, and with the rise of extremism across the world, we the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association felt there was a great need to condemn and counteract these horrific and un-Islamic act” Connected to this event is a talk by Faisal Kutty who wrote a column appearing in the Windsor Star and he wrote:

But as experts such as John Horgan, director of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts, point out, deradicalization initiatives could be counterproductive if ill-conceived.  He told Rolling Stone last year, “The idea that radicalization causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research.”Indeed, radical ideas are not crimes. Imagine a world without Gandhi and Mandela.

Kutty adds that

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s belittling of the role played by his hawkish foreign policies and draconian anti-terror initiatives on radicalization, as well as Muslim defensiveness and denial, are of equal concern. At the same time, blunt generalizations and reductionism hurt more than help.” Violent radicalization must be confronted without undermining social cohesion, violating human rights and deviating from core democratic ideals.”

Faisal Kutty will speak on:

Understanding Violent Radicalization, Wednesday, November 26, 20146 p.m.Ambassador Auditorium, CAW Student Centre, University of Windsor

Hopefully, between the audio conversation above and a chance at dialogue Wednesday and Thursday evenings we will broaden the conversation between the overreaction and hysteria of the State regarding terrorism, and the need for political solutions to the crisis in democracy in Canada brought about by the militaristic Harper regime. (See: Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada).



2014 CJAM Pledge Drive On The ShakeUp

It’s pledge drive at CJAM this fall and it’s an important time for the station as a good portion of operating costs come from this pledge drive.

More information follows and as you scroll down you’ll come across links to ShakeUp programs that ran over the last weeks and months…

About Pledge Drive:
CJAM is a non-profit campus-based community radio station. We are limited in our capacity to raise money via advertising and rely heavily on listener supported dollars. Radio is a capital-intensive business and we still need the annual funding drive to help pay for everyday items, equipment and operations.
Much of CJAM’s budget comes from the annual fees that are paid for by the University of Windsor’s students. Despite inflation CJAM has not had an increase in these fees for nearly two decades.

Carlo Fanelli: The Neoliberal City

ON-AIR Pledge Drive Dates: Friday, October 31 (noon) through Friday, November 7. (noon) – 24 hours daily.
• Purpose: To raise money for CJAM 99.1 FM annual budget. The Drive also represents an opportunity for the non-University listening audience to do their part in supporting community radio in Windsor/Detroit.
• Goal: To raise $30,000 in order to maintain CJAM’s daily operations

Kate McInturff on why more women don’t run for office


Donating 20$ allows donors to go into the music CD store at CJAM and pick out a music prize from our room of music incentives. Alternatively, hosts can create music giveaways for listeners.
$50 INCENTIVE – T-shirt
Limited edition CJAM 2012 T-Shirts, screen printed on a black American Apparel track shirt for a $50 pledge. T-shirt design is by Greg Maxwell.
$100 incentive – Gift package + t-shirt
The Gift packages will feature different items and gift certificates from local businesses and organizations, plus a limited edition t-shirt.

Live Broadcast: Downtown Windsor: Whose downtown is it?

Live broadcast participants

– CJAM is looking to raise $30,000, 20% of our annual budget.
– CJAM needs these funds for equipment, tariffs, insurance, staff salary, and other necessities that allow CJAM to operate day-to-day.
– CJAM has one of the smallest staffs in the Canadian campus-community market.
– The majority of the work is done by over 150 dedicated volunteers
– CJAM is not for profit, grassroots media
– CJAM is a not-for-profit radio station, so you are not bombarded with ads. Satellite radio has a subscription, but CJAM is free.
– Pledge Drive is the one time of the year where we ask for your support and help.
– CJAM’s music covers all genres and languages: local, international, independent, etc,.
– CJAM’s spoken word covers issues and topics ignored by mainstream media: labour issues, media criticism, feminism, local politics from all perspectives,
– On CJAM you can hear programming in Portuguese, Macedonian, Serbian, Bosnian, Arabic, English, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Croatian, Slovakian, and Ukrainian. Plus you’d be hard-pressed to find a language not featured in our music.

“Making a Way Out of No Way”: Detroit’s Rich Feldman and the New Work New Culture movement


Lawrence Wittner on the nuclear disarmament movement

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Aug 6th marked 69 years since the US dropped the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima. Ever since, the world has lived with the threat of nuclear destruction and all the dangers that go with the research and development of nuclear weapons. Even the peaceful uses of nuclear power have dire consequences for the planet with nuclear waste and the possibility of bomb making from nuclear material.

On Aug 6 in Royal Oak, Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History Emeritus at State University of New York/Albany spoke on the need for the abolition of nuclear weapons and how peace activists have managed to help save the planet from the horrors of a nuclear war – so far…

He is the author of  the trilogy: Resisting the BombConfronting the Bomb  and  Toward Nuclear AbolitionHe is a Peace Action Board member.

I spoke with Prof.  Wittner on The ShakeUp on August 1st:

With the world seeming to lurch toward an ever more violent future, Wittner just published a piece in The World Post

After summing up the conflict in Ukraine and the recent bloody outrage in Gaza, Wittner notes:

This aggressive use of military force is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, it’s been par for the course throughout the history of nations and, before that, the history of competing territories. It’s what brought the world to the brink of total disaster during World Wars I and II.

What is new is the dawning recognition that the world can no longer continue down this destructive path — that the competition among nations must be handled within the framework of an international security system. After all, there is no reason to assume that any individual nation can divorce itself from its own special “interests” and adopt an impartial stance when it comes to world affairs. Despite the claims of rabid nationalists and theocrats, God has not decreed that their nation should rule the world. Instead, an institution representing all nations should speak for the international community.

It’s pretty clear that the global neoliberal experiment is a disaster: for working people, the environment, and especially for non-Western cultures. The neoliberal agenda is the continuation of colonialist expansion driven by corporations bent on owning the very land, air, and water that should be held in common for all.

As Wittner points out, “…the nations of the world spend $1.75 trillion a year on war and preparations for war”. The Cold War may be over, but the threat of an all out global war is a never ending threat to us all.

We need a global peace movement led by the working class and a re-vitalized United Nations where nations can act in concert for the common good of all citizens – not just corporate entities.

May 16, 2014: Michael Roberto & the struggle for cooperative ownership; Kelly Carmichael on Proportional Representation

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Listen to entire program here:

On the line from Greensboro, NC was Michael Roberto, associate professor of history at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. He is a contributor to the Monthly Review and his recent article: Crisis, Recovery, and the Transitional Economy struck me as being very relevant to what’s happening, and needs to happen, in this area: namely an economic model that works for people not owners of capital.

In forging their relationship with two community groups, Concerned Citizens for Northeast Greensboro (CCNG) and Citizens for Environmental and Economic Justice (CEEJ), Whitfield and Thompson proposed a cooperatively owned grocery store in Bessemer Center that the city would renovate and then rent to the co-op with an agreement that the latter would eventually buy the space. Unlike a privately-owned chain grocer, a food co-op would benefit the community by (1) supplying affordable and nutritious groceries to residents who were among the most impoverished in the city and whose neighborhoods lay in one of the largest of the city’s food deserts, and (2) build new wealth on the basis of cooperative ownership and democratic control in a community badly in need of capital formation but often left out of the city’s plans for economic development. (Michael Roberto)

Click image to read more on Renaissance Community Coop

Click image to read more on Renaissance Community Coop

In this audio section Roberto describes the struggle to achieve a local democratic economic alternative:


More on the history of building the Greensboro grocery coop (Click Image)

More on the history of building the Greensboro grocery coop (Click Image)


Proportional Representation as a voting system, is practiced in 80 countries around the globe. From the FVC website “In 2011, just 39% of the voters gave one party 54% of the MPs and 100% of the power. Our skewed system threw seven million votes in the trash so those voters are not represented in Ottawa. When we add proportionality to our electoral system, voters are treated equally. We actually get what we voted for. Results are fair. Parliament reflects our diversity. Seats are truly at stake everywhere, so MPs are held accountable.”

Kelly Carmichael, who is the Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada was on the line to talk about PR. Is PR the cure for a dysfunctional political system? No, but a truly fair system of voting is a basic requirement of a people-powered political process:

Click Image for campaign info

Click Image for campaign info


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