John Logue, a pre-eminent educator and practitioner for economic democracy in Ohio and around the world, passed away December 9.
Scholars are often not very adept at translated their ideas and ideals into reality while social doers can often be not well grounded in the theories and history of what they’re creating.
John was adept at applying theory and practice to an arena that must be widely expanded in our unsustainable corporate-dominated economy – ownership by workers of the place of their employment.
Founder of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University, Logue assisted more than 10,000 workers in more than 70 firms in Ohio and elsewhere to gain greater direct control of their workplace.
Worker-owned firms aren’t likely to move off shore, exploit employees, or bleed their companies to pay executives exorbitant bonuses. Rather, they provide workers power to control their own workplaces – all the while operating in the “free market.” Worker ownership is thus a third category of economic institution – neither corporate which are controlled by management and stockholders or state which is owned and run by the government.
Logue organized over the years several delegations of diverse participants to the Mondragon region of Spain to witness first-hand the incredible network of hundreds of worker-owned cooperatives which employ 100,000 employees. A recent visit included representatives of the Cleveland Foundation and others from the area desperate to find a way to bring back to life an inner city that corporations had abandoned and government handouts had failed to empower. The result was the launch in October of a network of employee-owned cooperatives to employ area residents, give them power over their own economic lives, and provide needed goods and services to area hospitals and universities.
I sat near John at the announcement of the first of those cooperatives, Evergreen Laundry. True to his graceful and humble form, he wasn’t up front with the politicians, hospital and university presidents or supporting non-profit heads. He sat back in the audience almost intentionally trying to stay away from the limelight. That was John.
Several months ago, we launched an educational campaign to help activists and concerned citizens better understand the sources and solutions to the global economic crisis. I invited John to speak about worker ownership at a program in Cleveland, saying the audience might not be very large. He didn’t care. He showed up and provided an incredible in-depth, intelligent, clear and hopeful description of how our economy could be transformed if only public incentives (loans, grants, subsidies, tax breaks, etc.) favored employee-owned and cooperative businesses at even a fraction that they currently favor large corporations. And it did with humor, respect and a genuineness that was disarming no matter what preconceived notions one possessed. That was John.
Martin Luther King said once in response to the incompleteness of sit-down strikes of the south: what good is it to have the right to sit down in a restaurant if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger. The point was racial justice doesn’t go very far without economic justice.
Logue might have understood a corollary today; the realization of real political democracy isn’t possible without real economic democracy. Business corporations and wealthy individuals under our current economic rules and institutions amass ever-increasing wealth which distort, if not demolish, the ability of citizens without money either directly or through their elected representatives to shape public policies.
Worker owned businesses and cooperatives are different economic institutions – more democratic ones that provide workers the ability to become owners and exert their own economic power.
That may have been why as a political science professor he worked so hard for economic democracy. Greater economic power is connected to greater political power.
That was John.