FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Berkeley Passes Resolution Supporting
BERKELEY, CA (February 9, 2016) — On Tuesday, the City of Berkeley made a bold proclamation in support of democratic and equitable workplaces, passing City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín’s “Resolution Supporting the Development and Growth of Worker Cooperatives.”
Not merely a symbolic gesture, the resolution directs City staff to develop a substantive ordinance that supports and incentivizes the growth of worker cooperatives in Berkeley. The ordinance would add a worker cooperative preference to the existing Buy Local contracting preference, create business tax and land use incentives for worker cooperatives, and develop cooperative-specific educational materials to supplement the City’s business support services.
By approving this resolution, “Berkeley now has the potential to become the first city in the nation to adopt an ordinance giving worker-owned businesses preference in city contracting and procurement,” stated Stanford Law student and Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) legal volunteer, An-Li Herring. John Curl, member-owner of Berkeley-based Heartwood Cooperative Woodshop reflected, “Worker coops reflect the highest ideals of our city, combining social equity with practical economics, filling new job niches, creating sustainable positions for people from diverse backgrounds, and providing quality goods and services. With the City’s support, the entire community will become more aware of the great work that locally owned and operated worker coops are doing and contributing to our economy and culture.”
|Worker-owner, Maria Williford, from DIG Coop speaking to Berkeley City Council in support of the resolution|
Indeed, Berkeley’s forthcoming legislation could amplify the benefits worker cooperatives are already providing the City. As a lever for social and economic justice, worker cooperatives provide wages and benefits above industry average and help to build wealth for workers in sectors typically populated with low to moderate-income community members. Worker cooperatives are also increasingly considered an option for succession planning, which preserves existing small businesses, prevents job loss, and turns employees into business owners. In the context of rapid gentrification in Bay Area communities, supporting and stabilizing living-wage jobs is an essential strategy for stemming homelessness and displacement of families and locally rooted businesses.
Alison Lingane, co-founder of Project Equity and one of the advocates pushing for this resolution stated, “In Berkeley, Oakland, and across the Bay Area, we are seeing increased interest among existing businesses to transition to worker coops as a way to deepen their mission, anchor their businesses locally, and—for retiring business owners—as a way to cement their business' legacy in the community.” Indeed, she reminds us, Berkeley's infamous Cheese Board bakery was originally formed as a cooperative by “converting” an existing successful business, and today it continues to thrive and provide good jobs to its members.
City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín (center) with supporters
The Resolution Supporting the Development and Growth of Worker Cooperatives was supported by the efforts of Sustainable Economies Law Center in partnership with Project Equity, Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC), Democracy at Work Institute, Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, and many other Berkeley residents and cooperative advocates.
This resolution follows a similar declaration of support for worker cooperatives by the City of Oakland last September, and points to a trend toward local action for worker cooperative-friendly policies. Indeed, cities including Madison, Austin, and New York have all recently passed laws that are helping local cooperative economies take root. Amy Johnson, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives Co-Executive Director, stated before at the resolution hearing, that what Berkeley is doing “can absolutely support a model that can go out across the country."
Follow the movement for worker cooperatives in the Bay Area here: www.theselc.org/worker_coop_city_policies
Read SELC legal volunteer An-Li Herring’s op-ed about the resolution in Berkeleyside: www.berkeleyside.com/2016/02/09/berkeley-worker-co-op-resolution-could-usher-in-equitable-economic-development/
Please direct questions and press inquiries to Yassi Eskandari-Qajar at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 637-2734.