We’ve been talking about “deconstructing the corporation.” Michelle Miller and Jess Kutch of coworker.org have been deconstructing the union. We often think about unions as a vehicle for collective bargaining. But what Jess and Michelle have figured out is that worker power begins with worker voice, giving workers an opportunity to speak to their concerns and issues. And they’ve figured out how to use social media to amplify that voice. Their success in building a platform that lets workers raise issues and gather support, from the bottom up, is revolutionary, and an essential complement to the network-based employment platforms of the future.
A new generation of workplace leaders are using technology to push corporate decision-making out into the open. They are committed to full participation in their workplaces — not just as workers but as the people who have a say the futures of their companies for fellow employees, consumers and investors. This ethos, combined with the connective power of the internet, is dramatically reshaping the future of worker voice.
The structural changes our economy is facing present a once-in-a-century moment to shape the next iteration of work. This next evolution of the job has the potential to be more generative, enlivening and meaningful if we can find ways to put people and their needs as workers at the center of that design.
Michelle Miller is the co-founder of Coworker.org, a digital platform that matches campaigning tools with organizing, media and legal support to help people change their working conditions. Since its founding in 2013, Coworker.org has catalyzed the growth of global, independent employee networks at major companies like Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Olive Garden and US Airways. Michelle’s early work developing Coworker.org was supported by a 2012 Practitioner Fellowship at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. She is a 2014 Echoing Green Global Fellow and a Fellow with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London.
Before co-founding Coworker.org, Michelle spent a decade at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where she pioneered creative projects that advanced union campaigns. She is also a nationally recognized media artist and cultural organizer. Most recently, she directed the participatory media creation process for Hollow, a 2014 Peabody award-winning interactive documentary about her home state of West Virginia.
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