Major structural changes are afoot in the US economy. Prominent economists are telling us that the majority of new jobs created since the recession are based on so-called “alternative work arrangements” (aka the “gig” economy), which is leading to a fissuring of the labor market and degrading pay, benefits, and working conditions for workers of all education and skill levels. Aside from that, consolidation and centralization of capital within major industries has led to the rise of “superstar firms”, which in turn has served to lower labor’s share of national income due to a reallocation of labor towards firms with lower (and declining) labor shares. These processes have been abetted by the precipitous decline in union membership in the U.S. begining in the 1970s. Lastly, while the role that automation played in the manufacturing job apocalypse has been greatly exaggerated, the perils of future waves of automation are quite real (which begs the question: who will own the robots?).

ORA believes that economic development policy in Arlington needs to create sustainable economic prosperity for all; eliminate poverty, economic inequality, racism, sexism and discrimination; and increase local democratic control over economic activity, capital, and collective wealth. To that end, ORA believes that economic development policy should privilege locally-rooted small and medium-sized businesses, while dispensing with the practice of providing subsidies of any sort to lure and/or retain large corporate entities and multinationals.

Moreover, the county should strive to leverage its financial resources and the purchasing power of institutions that receive county money to incubate worker-owned and self-directed cooperative enterprises (a la the Cleveland model). Lastly, the county should give bidding preference to unionized enterprises, worker-owned cooperatives, ESOPs, and Benefit Corporations when seeking new contractors and vendors, while also adding social responsibility criteria when evaluating bidders. This is especially the case for a company like Nestle, which is to receive over $6 million in taxpayer-funded relocation subsidies. Nestle has a long corporate rap sheet, which should have been enough to bar them from any subsidies from a community that brands itself as progressive.

ORA believes that these community-wealth building policies and programs for constructing a cooperative growth ecosystem will be absolutely essential to ensuring shared prosperity in light of current trends in the economy and labor market enumerated above.

Additional Resources