Joerg Rieger

Joerg Rieger is Distinguished Professor of Theology and founding director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice at Vanderbilt University. With Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger, he is coauthor of Unified We Are A Force: How Faith And Labor Can Overcome America’s Inequalities. Find out more information on their project on faith and worker cooperatives.

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The Supply Chain Is Broken. Here’s How We Fix It

With worker co-ops, there would be no reason to circle the globe for ever-cheaper labor.
An illustration of a cross-shaped crane lifting an orange box into the sky

Illustration by Michael George Haddad

BY NOW, MOST of us have been affected by problems with the “supply chain.” It started last year with shelves void of toilet paper, then morphed into a lack of other manufactured goods, including construction materials, cars, and medical equipment.

Other than this being a (sometimes serious) nuisance, why should people of faith take notice? From our perspectives—as a theologian and a developer of worker-owned cooperatives—the broken supply chain throws light on some of our deepest economic and political problems.

The current shortage of goods and services is often attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its roots, however, are in an economic system designed to produce maximum profits for the few rather than the many by outsourcing production. The “few” are called shareholders and the “many” are those who work for a living. While many working people also own some shares, the bulk of profit in this system goes to those with the largest portfolios and majority positions. No wonder U.S. billionaires have gained more than $2 trillion since the pandemic began.