Recuperating Work and Life

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by Marina Sitrin
ROAR Magazine

As the economic crisis deepens and governments—instead of providing support—respond with more austerity, people throughout the world are not only resisting but increasingly creating their own solutions in multiple spheres of life. Work is an especially difficult area around which to organize if the government refuses to aid the unemployed or underemployed, and yet it is also one where some of the most innovative solutions are arising.

One alternative to the prospect of never-ending unemployment is the recuperation of workplaces. No longer making demands on governments that have turned their backs on the population, people are turning to one another. Workers are taking over abandoned workplaces and making them function again, getting rid of bosses and hierarchy while developing democratic assemblies, equal pay remuneration, job rotation and more ecological production practices.

Feelings of power and dignity

Workers in Europe have begun to recuperate their livelihoods, together with the support of the communities around them, following the lead of Argentina after the 2001 economic collapse. There are currently at least a dozen such workplaces in Europe, over 350 in Argentina, and many dozens more in other parts of Latin America.

I have visited a number of recuperated workplaces in Europe over the past two years, and I regularly spend time in Argentina. The stories of these initiatives are all quite similar to one another, as are the feelings of power and dignity that emanate from each and every one of them as soon as you enter the worker-controlled space.

The newer recuperations in Europe not only take the lead from their sisters and brothers in South America, but have often received direct support and encouragement from workers in Argentina in particular. And in almost every case, the workers, when deciding whether or not they could take back and run their workplace, reflected that it was something “they” do, in Argentina, or that it is a cultural thing happening only in Latin America—not imagining that worker-occupied and horizontally-run workplaces could catch on in Europe.

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