C2BE would like you to meet our friend and team member Michael “Mike” Friedman. Mike is an economic justice warrior and workplace democracy heavyweight who has been with C2BE since its inception in 2007. At first Mike was a C2BE Board member while practicing law at the Honigman law firm. When he retired from the firm, Mike left the Board and joined the staff of C2BE.
As C2BE’s General Counsel, Mike handles the organization’s legal work, but he values most being able to work with project partners in helping them structure how their businesses can operate as worker-owned enterprises, and educating business owners, community leaders, and those in government promoting economic development about the various worker-ownership business models and their significant benefits to businesses, employees, and communities — a win/win/win proposition. Mike’s involvement in and commitment to workplace democracy, however, long preceded his involvement with C2BE.
This month, Mike went to Chicago to attend the 2022 Labor Notes Conference. Labor Notes, according to the organization’s website, is a media and organizing project that has been the voice of union activists who “want to put the movement back in the labor movement.” For more information, visit
According to Friedman, “What’s most exciting is to see the growth in the U.S. and globally to unionize and have democratic control of the workplace. Bernie Sanders was one of the keynote speakers. The conference reflected the real work that union activists are doing.”
Friedman’s wife Barbara also attended and facilitated a workshop on the legal rights of union members within their unions.
Michael Friedman is not just an asset to our organization, but to the Michigan cooperative and economic development ecosystem as a whole. Currently, Mike serves on the boards of the Michigan Center for Employee Ownership (MICEO) and the Advisory Board for the Detroit Community Wealth Fund (DCWF)’s Worker Owned Detroit, contributing to a white paper explaining worker-ownership and succession planning to business owners.
“I’ve worn many hats prior to becoming an attorney and a Wayne State Alum: I was a truck driver in Cleveland, Ohio for 14 years, and a union activist. In 1976, I was a founding member of
Teamsters for a Democratic Union 1(100%)
(TDU),” said Friedman.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union came about with the work of Socialist International and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of 1964. TDU is still active and is the longest running rank and file caucus in U.S. labor history.
What is a rank and file caucus? Friedman responded: “Not sure there is a formal definition, but practically speaking, a rank and file caucus is a group of union members that act together to change the rules by which the union operates (i.e. amend the constitution or bylaws), the officers, or both. These union members may start out locally and informally, but if the group sticks together, grows in numbers, develops a program, it functionally becomes a caucus.”
According to Terry Lewis, “Rank and file caucuses seek to influence their governance democratically. In Unions, there is some type of bureaucratic, administrative level. With Teamsters, rank and file became responsible for electing union leaders to that bureaucratic level.”
So why does C2BE celebrate this work? Our founder Deborah Groban Olson said it best: “People need to know that there are only two kinds of entities that represent the rights and interests of workers and that’s unions and employee-owned companies.” Therefore, in order to advance the labor movement, it is important that we extend our principles of collaboration and cooperation with these kinds of organizations and their networks.