Restaurant Co-Ops Put Economic Justice On The Table

Food service is not an industry that most would associate as a beacon of social or economic justice. In fact, the restaurant industry is notorious for providing paltry wages, for engaging in shocking levels of wage theft, and for generally being comprised of toxic work environments marked by sexual harassment and human trafficking.

In the face of horrendous work environments and staggering levels of worker exploitation, many restaurant workers and their advocates are advancing alternative models of management and ownership geared toward breaking the cycles of abuse and disempowerment that define much of the industry.

One of the most interesting models being explored is the worker cooperative: businesses that are owned and run collectively by the workers themselves.

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Organizing Poultry Workers Starts With Learning Together

She’s been denounced by Tyson Foods as a “radical union organizer,” but Magaly Licolli doesn’t organize unions — she organizes workers.

Licolli is a leader in the workers’ center movement that since the 1970s has been organizing labor difficult to formally unionize. An immigrant who developed a passion for popular education through her theater education in Mexico, Licolli served as the executive director of the now-defunct Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center, a nonprofit founded in 2007 to serve the region’s poultry workers, where she worked with local community organizer Fernando Garcia. In 2019 Licolli co-founded Venceremos (Spanish for “we will win”), a nonprofit community center with a similar mission. Venceremos, like the NWAWJC, belongs to the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of over 30 similar worker-based organizations representing some 375,000 food workers in the U.S. and Canada.

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