The Food Trike, photo by Kenny Grand
A movement toward solidarity economies is growing in central Arkansas. We asked Kenny Grand of Box Populi to write up some information about the food trike he and several people are working on and learn more about how you can be involved.
Box Populi and the Delicious Insurgency, by Kenny Grand
Sometimes, the struggle for democracy and economic freedom for all people sounds like some far-off fever dream… a modern-day Big Rock Candy Mountain. However, the New Economy movement has been building momentum in America, and people all over the country and the world over are turning the dream into social reality. As of now, there are over 300 worker-owned cooperative companies in the united states. Businesses where the profits from production, the fruits of labor; go directly into the hands of the people doing the work. These companies stress cooperation, solidarity, and ecological and economic sustainability.
509,000 people live below the poverty line in Arkansas- one of the highest levels in the United States. The usual answer to addressing issues of poverty is to simply grow the traditional economy. However, this does little to alleviate poverty. Being a right to work state with a competitively low average wage and relatively relaxed environmental regulations makes Arkansas very attractive to national and international businesses. We do see the creation of new jobs but these are jobs that still fail to pay a proper living wage. So instead of building positive life opportunities, we’re just growing a poisonous service sector.
For the past three years, organizers and community members here in Arkansas have been having discussions and meetings to build the basis for a local solidarity economy. Given our relatively tiny resource pool, we’re starting small. With the help of puddle.com, we’ve created a small group to share money for our startups. This has already been used to finance a few local startup businesses and will be used to provide strategic financing for Box Populi. A small collective has begun fundraising and organizing to start a worker-owned mobile cafe called Box Populi. It’ll be an industrial tricycle mounted with a mobile cafe on the back. It will be a new kind of company for Little Rock…one where both the risks and rewards will be shared by the workers.
We’ll adjust our wages to our income so that in times of good business, we all get raises- but in tough times instead of laying people off, we will all share the burden. Also, a portion of the profits will be placed in an investment trust. Unlike the standard model where the owner/ceo scrapes the cream off of the top and leaves workers with the dregs, we’ll have a pool of profit for reinvesting in Box Populi and other worker owned cooperatives.
If we are successful, we can build the beginnings of a truly democratic economy here in Arkansas. We’ve adopted the Rochdale principles of cooperation, which are the foundation of the global solidarity economy movement:
Voluntary and Open Membership
Democratic Member Control
Member Economic Participation
Autonomy and Independence
Education, Training, and Information
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Concern for Communities
Anybody interested in helping to build this new ownership movement can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenny Grand is a builder, popular education activist and organizer with The Central Arkansas Cooperative Development organization as well as the Collective Liberation Study Group. He also sporadically publishes The Arkansas Worker, a regional progressive culture and theory zine