For many Americans, the phrase “worker cooperative” probably evokes vague notions of overseas Communism, small-time craft vendors, or the organic grocery store around the corner. Underneath that cultural baggage, though, it’s a pretty simple idea: Whatever the enterprise, every employee who qualifies has a vote on business matters and is invested in the company. Shift Change, a new documentary that debuts in D.C. today, makes that point by just letting the workers talk—and by focusing on worker cooperatives in unexpected areas of the economy, from a linen service in Cleveland to a high-tech engineering company in Wisconsin. Producers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young—who have been making sturdy issue-oriented docs for about three decades—also take the film to Spain’s Basque region, where the globally competitive Mondragón Corporation ties together numerous industrial co-ops. Nothing in the United States approaches that kind of scale, but Shift Change argues that in an economy where not much is certain, it’s worth considering different ways for ordinary people to join forces in the name of profit.
The film shows at 11 a.m. at the AFL-CIO, 815 16th St. NW. Free. RSVP requested. community-wealth.org/shiftchange. Also shows at 7:30 p.m. at Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. $10 suggested donation.