Shift Change Premier / Worker Coop Panel Discussion

During the winter of 2011, Chittenden County’s worker owners from Data Systems, PT 360, Arethusa Farm and Redhouse Builders met at City Market on a few occasions to talk about the possibility of forming a worker cooperative alliance similar to the Valley Workers Alliance in Western Massachussets. A little background on the VAWC, a group of 10 worker cooperatives in Western Mass and Southern Vermont have banded together to form  “a “co-op of worker co-ops” that have come together as a means of strengthening the efforts of our individual co-ops to develop their businesses, serve their members, and contribute to the wider co-operative economy. (taken from the VAWC website)”.


Adam Trott, the VAWC staff developer drove up to meet with us in Burlington and help us begin to organize our thoughts on how we Northern VT worker coops might form a similar alliance or possibly become a wing of VAWC.  At that time the consensus was that there was relatively little interest in forming an alliance and frankly we didn’t know how we would work together, being software developers, physical therapists, builders and farmers. One idea I was into was the potential of shared marketing efforts, but the only problem was I didn’t know what that would look like.


Flash forward to 2013 and the arrival of Webskillet to our scene as BTV’s newest worker coop and purveyors of digital strategy and smart communications. After a few get to know you meetings and attempts to pick up where we left off on VAWC North, Julie Winn from Web Skillet contacted me and asked if Data Systems was willing to sponsor a showing at the Roxy Theater of SHIFT CHANGE, a movie promoting worker cooperatives and democratic workplaces. Within a few seconds of receiving her email I responded with a resounding YES (as did the other worker coops and development groups in BTV).

Photo Credits: WebSkillet


The premier was a huge success thanks to some stellar marketing by Webskillet, over 80 people showed up to see the film and our little group has some momentum. Again thanks to the wonderful folks at Webskillet. They were the catalyst for the first significant collaboration between the burlington worker coops.


Reflecting on last nights premier and following panel discussion with PT360, Digger’s Mirth Collective Farm and Data Systems, it is clear to me that the arrival of a motivated, newly formed worker coop, with enthusiastic commitment to the cooperative principles, was a great step towards forming our own “coop of coops” here in Northern VT. Who knows, maybe a few of the young entrepreneurs in the audience will form their own worker coops in the coming months. In the meantime I look forward to meeting with the sponsors of SHIFT CHANGE and a some other regional worker coops to keep this momentum going!