Act: Inspiration

Podcast: The Case for Worker Cooperatives and Economic Democracy

June 5, 2018

The latest episode of the Upstream podcast takes a deep dive into the worker cooperatives movement: a broad selection of organizations, activists, and cooperatively-structured workplaces that advocate for and embody workplace and economic democracy. The 21st century has seen an explosion in interest around worker cooperatives. In the first part of this two-part series, we look into how worker co-ops present a radically different kind of ownership and management structure, one that has the power to transform not only the workplace, but perhaps the economy as a whole.

This episode tells the story of Rich City Rides, a cooperatively-owned and run bike and skate shop in Richmond, California. Through candid conversations with one of the founders, and drawing from the wisdom of community organizers and thought leaders, we explore how worker cooperatives can transform workplaces into commons that strengthen cooperative values and begin to bring social and racial justice to marginalized communities.

We also take a brief trip to the Basque Country of northern Spain to explore how the rich cooperative environment there compares to that of the United States and the San Francisco Bay Area specifically. What challenges do co-ops in the U.S. face as they continue to bump up against the dominant, capitalist economic system? What can the movement learn from the successes and challenges of the Basque model?

Join Della Z. Duncan and Robert R. Raymond as they take you on an informative and inspiring exploration through one of the most important movements that is challenging the extractive and exploitative economy: the worker cooperative movement.


  • Richard Wolff — Economics professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, founder of Democracy at Work, and host of the weekly radio show Economic Update
  • Gopal Dayaneni — Co-founder of Cooperation Richmond and Staff Member at Movement Generation
  • Doria Robinson — Founder of Urban Tilth and Co-Founder of Cooperation Richmond
  • Esteban Kelly — Executive Director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
  • Gorka Espiau — Senior Fellow at the Agirre Lehendakaria Center at the University of the Basque Country
  • Najari Smith — Worker/member of Rich City Rides bike and skate shop
  • Roxanne Villaluz — Worker/member of a cooperative bakery & pizzeria
  • Sofa Gradin — Political Organizer and Lecturer in Politics at King’s College in London

Music By:

  • Jerry Folk
  • Antwon
  • The Roots of Orchis

The second part of this series will be out in May 2018 and will take a much deeper dive into the Basque Country and the Mondragon Cooperatives.

Upstream is an interview and documentary series that invites you to unlearn everything you thought you knew about economics. Weaving together interviews, field-recordings, rich sound-design, and great music, each episode of Upstream will take you on a journey exploring a theme or story within the broad world of economics. So tune in, because the revolution will be podcasted.

For more from Upstream, subscribe on iTunesGoogle Play, or Stitcher Radio. You can also follow Upstream onFacebookTwitter, and Instagram to get daily updates.

Header graphic by Phil Wrigglesworth


This article is cross posted with permission from

Tags: building resilient economies, new economy, worker-cooperatives