Empowering Citizens To Protect Their Local Community

steveviedermanLongtime shareowner activist Steve Viederman discusses the notion of community governance, where communities reclaim democratic power of self-determination from corporations and other external forces.  Exemplifying community governance is the Fair Trade Towns movement, where communities commit to supporting Fair Trade commodities such as coffee and cocoa.  We speak about Fair Trade Towns and World Fair Trade Day with Amherst Fair Trade Partnership Chair Yuri Friman and Bart’s Cafe owner Al Sax, who is coordinating the launch of the fourth Fair Trade Town here in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts where we produce Sea Change Radio.  And finally, this week’s ViewPoint comes from Liana Foxvog of SweatFree Communities on its latest report, Subsidizing Sweatshops II, which identifies how communities can advocate for their state and local governments to avoid buying products such as firefighter uniforms produced in sweatshop conditions.

In November 2008, Steve Viederman met with some of the best community organizers in the country at the the South by Southwest Learning Continuum: Southern Echo from Jackson, Mississippi; Southwest Workers Union (SWU) from San Antonio, Texas; and SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) from Albuquerque, New Mexico.    “Community governance” was the buzz — in other words, communities reclaiming democratic power of self-determination from corporations and other external forces.  

As longtime president of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, Viederman helped steer grants to community organizations working to empower citizens and protect their local environment.  For example, the Noyes Foundation helped SWOP engage with Intel over environmental issues such as water use and toxics in its New Mexico chip manufacturing facility.  On a recent visit to his grandchildren, Viederman stopped by the studios to chat about community governance. Among other things, he distinguished between communities as stakeholders, the current terminology, and stakeowners, the term Viederman proposes as a more accurate description of communities’ rights and responsibilities.

 

fairtradetownNext, there’s a movement afoot for communities to use their collective consumer power to promote Fair Trade, which sets a fair price for commodities like coffee and cocoa and deals directly with worker cooperatives to empower growers globally.  Fair Trade Towns is gaining steam in the US, particularly here in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts where we produce Sea Change Radio.  To find out more, we invited Yuri Friman, Chair of the Amherst Fair Trade Partnership, and Al Sax, who’s helping launch Greenfield as the fourth Fair Trade Town in the Valley, into the studio.

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