South Whidbey Record


‘Shift Change’ shows workers another way

December 1, 2012 · Updated 8:49 AM

Melissa Young, right, and Mark Dworkin answer questions after the world premiere of Shift Change at Oakland’s Grand Lake theater Oct. 18. / Brooke Anderson photo


The highly anticipated documentary film, “Shift Change” will have its Whidbey premiere at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Clyde Theatre in Langley.

South Whidbey filmmakers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young will be present for the screening, and discussion follows the film.

Young and Dworkin have produced many documentary films on social justice and environmental issues in North and South America, winning prestigious awards from CINE, Houston, Columbus, Prix Leonardo, International Wildlife, Women in Film/Seattle, Chicago, NW Film and Video Festivals, among others.

Their productions are known for diverse examples of regular people helping create positive change. Young and Dworkin’s films are in broad circulation in academic and activist settings. Five have been broadcast on PBS, most recently, “Good Food” (2010), an intimate look at the growers and businesses that are creating a local, sustainable food system in the Pacific Northwest. Another 2012 release, “We Are Not Ghosts” (2012) is about rebuilding Detroit from the ground up.

“At a time when many are disillusioned with big banks, big business, and growing inequality in the United States, employee ownership offers real solutions for workers and communities,” said Dworkin about “Shift Change.” The film visits thriving cooperative businesses in the U.S. and Spain; sharing on-the-ground experiences, lessons and observations from the worker-owners on the front lines of the new economy.

Dworkin and Young gained what they call “unprecedented access” to the world’s oldest and largest network of worker cooperatives in Mondragon in the Basque Country of Spain where 60 percent of local residents are employee-owners. With high job security and competitive salaries, the Basque Country boasts half the unemployment rate of the rest of Spain, and the Mondragon Corporation is the country’s 10th largest.

Young said, “‘Shift Change’ highlights the qualities that have helped to drive Mondragon’s business success while also maintaining the democratic, socially responsible, community-oriented principles upon which it was founded.”

Here in the U.S., where a long decline in manufacturing and an economic crisis have led to millions of Americans being thrown out of work, many are looking to Mondragon as a model, according to the two filmmakers.

Worker-owned businesses are on the rise, with hundreds of co-ops in the U.S. today, representing thousands of individual worker-owners.

“‘Shift Change’ highlights some of these worker-owned companies across the nation: from bakeries to solar energy to manufacturing and engineering. Through in-depth interviews with worker-owners, attendance at co-op meetings, and visits to the factory floor, the film conveys the promise that these businesses offer to reinvent our failing economy, provide a pathway to long term stability, and nurture a more egalitarian way of life,” Dworkin said.

“Shift Change” has been released during the U.N.’s International Year of Cooperatives (2012.coop). A Seattle premiere Dec. 6 at the Pacific Place theater, 600 Pine St., will follow the Whidbey screening Dec. 2.

The dozens of South Whidbey supporters who supported completion of the film are invited to this screening for free. For others, regular Clyde ticket prices will apply.

Nationwide screenings are currently being planned. For an up-to-date screening schedule, visit www.shiftchange.org and click on “Screening Schedule.” There is also a six-minute preview on that site.

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