By Chris Tittle, Director of Organizational Resilience //
At a recent Oakland City Council meeting, Wilson Riles, a community leader and former City Councilmember, reminded us why Wall Street is so-called: it actually had a wall built around it in the 17th century to keep out Native tribes displaced by early colonists.
It’s also worth remembering that Wall Street was the site of New York City’s first slave market, and the first modern financial instruments were developed to collateralize Black bodies in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.Read more
By Sue Bennett, Sustainable Economies Law Center staff member //
Last year, the Sustainable Economies Law Center brought together a group of five community composters from around California in a monthly phone call, creating a small, but powerful, California Community Compost Coalition. These amazing individuals are transforming the ways their communities manage food and yard waste, and they are helping California comply with a mandate to divert organic waste from landfills. Yet, these compost entrepreneurs have been encountering many frustrating legal barriers, prompting them to take action at the city and state level. Already, they are demonstrating that – even without policy advocacy experience – people can shape law and policy when they get organized and speak up!
Photo by Brenda Platt, Institute for Local Self RelianceRead more
By Christina Oatfield, Policy Director //
We believe that community land trusts (CLTs) are an underrated yet critical solution to the housing crisis, not only in the Bay Area but pretty much everywhere. They need more attention, funding, and other forms of support, such as government policies and programs to nurture their development.
What is a CLT and why are these organizations so great? Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed I wrote about CLTs last year:Read more
Anyone can make policy.
Do you have an idea to change your community for the better? Do you have questions about policymaking on a local or state level? Do you want to explore your inner policymaker?
Come get answers, ideas, and strategies from our center's staff, experienced attorneys and policymakers!
This is a two-part event (You can come to both, or either!)
1. From 5:00PM - 5:45PM, there will be a DIY Policymaking teach-in facilitated by Sustainable Economies Law Center's Policy Director, Yassi Eskandari, and Executive Director, Janelle Orsi. They'll present best practices for engaging in local and state-level policy issues.
2. From 5:45PM to 7:30PM, we'll be hosting a Policy Cafe and offering individualized consultations for folks who want to discuss their specific ideas and get advice on questions such as:
- What are the next steps after I have come up with my policy idea?
- How do I draft a policy proposal?
- How do I approach council members, county supervisors, or other legislators about my idea?
- How do I navigate the legislative process?
- In what ways can my nonprofit participate in policy advocacy?
The Policy Cafe will provide direct support to individuals and groups who are working to create new solutions for resilient local economies through policymaking and is part of our Transformative Policymakers project. It's modeled after our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, which provides donation-based legal advice for the community.
For questions, please contact our Director of Community Engagement, Eunice Kwon, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DATE: Tuesday, August 22, 2017.
TIME: 5:00PM - 7:30PM.
LOCATION: Sustainable Economies Law Center, 1428 Franklin St. Oakland, CA 94612.Sign up
EAST BAY! WE NEED YOU TO CALL ROB BONTA AND TONY THURMOND: We recommend at least sending a short letter and then following up with a call or two but you can just make phone calls if you are short on time.
We recommend sending a short letter and then following up with phone calls but making phone calls are priority if you are short on time.
Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond are two progressive leaders who sit on the Assembly Committee on Health, which will take a key vote on the homemade food bill, AB 626, on Tuesday, April 18. We have an opportunity to make a difference by showing support for a community ownership amendment to the homemade food bill!
Call Assemblymember Rob Bonta and/or Tony Thurmond and follow the phone script below. You can also call the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, Jim Wood.
When you call an office, ask to speak to the person who staffs the Assemblymember on the Health Committee about AB 626. If that person is not available when you call, just speak to the person who answered the phone.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (District includes Alameda, San Leandro, and most of Oakland)
Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (District includes north Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Albany, Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole, and Hercules)
Assemblymember Jim Wood (Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health)
My name is ------ -------, and I'm from ------. I am calling to urge the Assembly Committee on Health to amend AB 626 so that it ensures community ownership of web platforms that facilitate the sale of homemade foods. California should further legalize sales of homemade food, but we need to ensure that control and profits in this industry remain in the hands of cooks, eaters, and local organizations - not absentee shareholders and tech company executives. At this critical time in the development of the homemade food industry, we hope that the California legislature will take bold action to prevent the 'Uberization' of the homemade food economy. I ask that the health committee amend AB 626 to include a community ownership provision that would limit web platforms involved in selling homemade food to cook-owned cooperatives and nonprofit organizations.
Because of a new California law that passed last year, starting January 1, 2017, any worker cooperative corporation with seven or more members must now obtain workers compensation insurance for its worker-owners, even when everyone serves on the Board of Directors.
Although Assembly Bill (AB) 2883 was framed as a bill to clean up ambiguities in the code, it failed to take into account its impact on Cooperative Corporations. Many worker cooperatives are now being hit with enormous insurance bills costing worker-owners as much as 20% of their income. Prior to AB 2883, worker-owners had a choice in how this money was spent, sometimes setting it aside instead for higher wages that are paid directly to workers, or using it to provide comprehensive medical insurance. AB 2883 effectively takes this decision-making power away from worker-owners, undermining worker self-determination.
This article provides background, steps that cooperatives can take to respond, and information about the worker cooperative community’s current efforts to change the law.Read more
The legal life of compost is far more complex than you might imagine. The Sustainable Economies Law Center began to learn this five years ago when someone came to us for advice about her idea to collect vegetable scraps from restaurants for a fee, compost the material in distributed locations throughout her city, and sell the resulting rich soil to area gardeners. It seemed like a great idea until we discovered how many legal barriers she would have to overcome: compost facility permitting, zoning approval, labeling laws, transport laws, and one insurmountable barrier: the fact that her city prohibits anyone but one large corporate contractor from collecting vegetable scraps from businesses. Since then, similar community-based, small scale compost organizations and enterprises have sought legal support from the Law Center, demonstrating that the practice of community-scale composting is accelerating. We decided that it is time to look closely at the legal issues.
Now, we have a short window of time in which to influence the shape of the compost industry. The State of California, for example, recently adopted ambitious mandate to divert 75% of waste from landfills by 2020, a goal that will be impossible to meet without rapid scaling of composting capacity. That mandate, along with other recent compost legislation, is expected to create as many as 14,000 jobs in the California compost industry. We need to carve out a legally viable space for diverse, small-scale, distributed, community-based compost organizations.
Community composting can act as a powerful lever for economic justice and ecological resilience. Application of compost to range lands has recently been shown to sequester enormous amounts of carbon. Compost creates rich soil, which supports food security and enhances opportunities to grow food in urban areas. If we do not give communities the ability to organize themselves and create their own compost, then we’re missing a critical opportunity for communities to become more self-reliant, grow fresh produce, create good jobs, improve urban air quality, and build rich learning communities around a growing community compost movement.
The Law Center is supporting the community compost movement through:
Local coalition building: We are co-convening a group of community compost groups in California to address local and state policy concerns.
Legal research and policy analysis: We hope to collaborate with community compost organizations to create a thorough policy analysis for a national audience. See our draft policy guide for California below.
Educational resources: Provide legal guides to community composters to assist them in navigating complex legal terrain.
- Policy advocacy: We aim to introduce a bill in California in 2017 to remove a few of the key barriers to community composting. The anticipated legislation would:
(1) Establish a definition of Community Micro-Composting Organization in the California Code,
(2) Require CalRecycle to publish best management practices for small scale composting,
(3) Require that cities and counties include consideration of Community Micro-Composting Organizations in their waste management plans,
(4) Give households and businesses the right to give a small amount of feedstock (compostable material) to Community Micro-Composting Organizations, and
(5) Diversify the allowable feedstocks for farm-based composting to include manure, vegetable scraps, food material, and green material brought from off-site.
- Legal support: We will continue to provide legal advice to California community compost groups through our walk-in legal advice clinics.
Resources and invitation for feedback:
We recently worked with Berkeley Law School's Environmental Law Clinic to produce a brief for policymakers on ways to advocate for community composting.
Click here to read the DRAFT Policy Brief and to provide feedback. We aim to revise and expand upon this brief by the end of 2017.
Photos by Brenda Platt, Institute for Local Self Reliance
Worker cooperatives around California are being impacted by a new law requiring worker-owners to purchase workers compensation insurance. As a result, many cooperatives will have to cut worker pay and benefits. Will you join us in the effort to change the law?
Background on the Current Workers Compensation Legislation
In 2016, the California Legislature passed AB 2883, making changes to the workers compensation law that failed to take into account and will have an adverse impact on cooperatives. Previously, workers compensation insurance was not required for managing owners of businesses. This is still true for LLCs and partnerships, but AB 2883 made a very significant change for corporations, requiring that an owner hold at least 15% of the shares in order to waive workers compensation coverage. AB 2883 failed to consider the impact on cooperatives where members manage an enterprise collectively.
Previously, some worker cooperatives in California chose not to obtain workers compensation insurance for managing owners, opting instead to apply those funds toward health insurance, long-term disability insurance, or higher wages. In some industries, such as in food businesses, the cost of workers comp insurance will reduce workers’ take-home pay by as much as 15%. One worker-owned cafe has reported that AB 2883 will cause the cooperative to lose $200,000 in 2017. This is a substantial setback for the worker cooperative movement at a time when worker-ownership has been recognized as a path to better and more stable livelihoods in California. The new Labor Code laws as passed under AB 2883 have major implications. Read our guide on how to navigate the new worker's comp law on our blog here!
Worker-owners of a handful of cooperatives, including The Cheese Board Collective, Three Stone Hearth, Home Green Home, Drought Smart, Arizmendi Bakery, and Echo Adventures Team, have convened to form a campaign working group to change the law. Right now, we are gathering support from other cooperatives and organizations impacted by AB 2883.
Sign the Petition
This petition will call on California legislators to pass a bill that would give cooperatives the right to opt out of the workers compensation requirement. The bill would essentially restore the previous provisions of the law in its application to Cooperative Corporations: In cooperatives where all members serve as officers or directors, those members will be allowed to waive workers compensation coverage.
By adding your name to the petition, you are indicating your support for a bill that would allow cooperatives to opt out of the workers compensation requirement.
Anyone can make policy.
We want to live in a world where everyone can directly participate in decisions that shape their economic wellbeing: where everyone has the option to work in a worker-owned business, to live in democratically-controlled housing, to be a member of solar cooperatives, food cooperatives, and cooperative banks.
To create such a world, we must not only reshape policy to prioritize democratic economies; we must also change the very means by which policy is made. More than ever, when massive corporations wield incredible power to craft policy for their own benefit, we urgently need to put everyday people back into the driver’s seat of policymaking. But how?
Transformative Policymakers is a project to catalyze a movement in which people wield policy advocacy as a tool to create economic democracy.
Want to explore your inner policymaker? Get started with us here:
Oakland City Council passes our Worker Cooperative Resolution.
Beginning in 2009, as a group of volunteers and students with limited experience in legislative advocacy, we learned a powerful lesson: EVERYONE can help make policy.
When we take the initiative to visit legislators and express our genuine needs and hopes, our human voices can carry above the din of partisan politics and hot-button issues. When an immigrant entrepreneur tells her story of the empowerment and stability she has cultivated through her home-based food business, legislators across the political spectrum can hear something real and compelling. Thus, when our center advocated legalizing home-based food businesses in California, we got bipartisan support, in spite of roadblocks created by corporate food retailers. The Law Center has since written and passed laws and regulations to support worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, energy cooperatives, urban agriculture, home-based food business, seed libraries, and other practices that put economic power in the hands of communities.
It turns out that great power lies in NOT being a professional lobbyist, NOT being a lawyer, and NOT being a “usual suspect” at the capitol building. The two youngest members of our staff, neither of whom are lawyers, have had the greatest impact in our state capitol and city hall. Putting everyday people into policymaking is not only possible -- it’s powerful, and it’s the only true chance we have to reorient US politics and economics to the thriving of real people and communities.
Decentralizing policy advocacy is critical to realizing our vision of EVERY person having equitable means and power to influence the production, quality, and supply of jobs, food, energy, water, and housing in their own communities.
Help us change the world. Be a transformative policymaker.
By Sustainable Economies Law Center Executive Director, Janelle Orsi
So often, it comes back to money. Questions of finance are tethered to nearly every issue we work on at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Efforts to build sustainable systems for food, housing, energy, water, and jobs rely on a community’s ability to access and transact with dollars.Read more