Promoting Worker-Owned Cooperatives as a CED Empowerment Strategy: A Case Study of Colors and Lawyering in Support of Participatory Decision-Making and Meaningful Social Change
Irish Review of Community Economic Development Law Vol 1 (3) (2012)
Clinical Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2010
31 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2011 Last revised: 25 Nov 2014
Date Written: 2010
Empowerment driven CED lawyering, in a transactional context, is an emerging approach to progressive lawyering that fosters the collective action and active democratic participation of low-income and working-class people to reshape our social, economic, and political system. This Article examines three main approaches to CED and argues for a CED project and lawyering approach that is empowerment focused and not limited to a geographic locality. It provides a concrete example of an empowerment driven approach that adopts an expansive definition of community through a case study of Colors, a worker-owned cooperative. Worker-owned cooperatives are ideal empowerment driven CED projects because they alter conventional wealth and power dynamics by enabling low-income working people to exercise democratic control over the formation and day-to-day governance of collective enterprises - challenging capitalism’s assumption that enterprises must be privately owned and autocratically managed. In addition, promoting worker-owned cooperatives and participatory decision-making creates opportunities for collaborative lawyering that can further empower communities. The case study carefully explores how lawyers can best support this empowerment driven CED model and identifies the challenges and opportunities lawyers face in applying it - chief among them, the need for lawyers to consciously create participatory decision-making processes that give clients a meaningful opportunity to take collective ownership of their decision-making, as well as the need for thoughtful collaboration among lawyers and activists to support such a labor- and time-intensive counseling process. The Article concludes by deriving lawyering lessons in supporting this strategy.
Keywords: Community Economic Development, Collaborative Counseling, Worker Owned Cooperatives, Empowerment, Clinical Education, Economic Justice, Community Lawyering, Legal Services, Participatory Decision Making, Democratic Workplace
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