Working Partner Update: The Right to Repair Association

When I was youngster growing up in Brooklyn one of my assigned chores was to bring my father’s old dress shirts to have the collars repaired at the Shirt Hospital on Coney Island Avenue. New collars extended the life of the garments. The Shirt Hospital and other local appliance repair shops are long gone, a victim of the modern economy in which even self-repair became impossible because parts for appliances were no longer available.

The Right to Repair Association is working hard to reverse this trend and reintroduce the repair economy to spur job creation and money saving. The Association was started as a non-profit umbrella in 2013 and is now comprised of over 150 businesses and 40 non-profit organizations.

Due to their efforts, and the efforts of their member organization, no less than 18 state bills are in process to require manufacturers of numerous products to make parts, manuals, software, and tools available for individual and small businesses.

Gay Gordon-Byrne, director of the Right to Repair Association emphasizes that nation-wide open access for repairs could stimulate as many as 50,000 new repair businesses in camera, watch, computer, appliances, farm equipment, office equipment. With these changes, millions of consumers could self-repair. Over the years, many small businesses that catered to this market have disappeared. Byrne also points out that the labor force to meet the demand for repair training and jobs are available, including self-skilled individuals, veterans and autistic individuals.

As we’ve documented on our site previously, some workers are confronted with monopolies that restrict their employment in the repair sector. When a John Deere franchise covers a large region, skilled repair workers can only work for that company. A Right to Repair regulation would provide an opportunity for self-employment and small business start up. (For a discussion on monopolies and employment see this episode of our Building Local Power podcast, Why Aren’t Wages Rising?: The Answer Sounds A Lot Like Monopoly)

The momentum for regulations that would open up the filed to businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals is building rapidly. In early April alone decisions on proposed bills will be heard in N.Y., Mass., Calif., and Ill. 14 other states which will decide on bills during 2018. A 19th bill in Kansas has yet to be re-filed.

For more information on how you can support right to repair bills in your state contact the Right to Repair Association at

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Photo Credit: Karen Blakeman via Flickr (CC.0).

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.