We need economies made up of democratic workplaces that provide meaningful, dignified livelihoods to all people. That's why the SELC, Project Equity, and the East Bay Community Law Center created the Worker Coop Academy. The Academy catalyzes the formation and expansion of worker-owned businesses that will provide good jobs for low to moderate income workers.
Won't you help us reach our funding goal in order to build the cooperative economy of the Bay Area? Your funding will not only support facilitation of the Academy, but also the accreditation of its curriculum. We are working with Laney College to accredit the Worker Coop Academy so it can be offered for college credit across California! Give today!Donate
We want to live in a society where enterprises and assets are owned and controlled by the communities that depend on them for livelihoods, sustenance, and ecological well-being.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center's Cooperatives Program works to vastly expand the legal resources and cultivate a fertile legal landscape for the growth of cooperatives for the benefit of workers. We provide education, advocacy, research, and advice for worker centered cooperatives, including the creation of legal documents and guidance for best practices.
Find our worker centered cooperative projects and resources for starting, supporting, or cultivating worker cooperatives below!
Peruse our Law Center's legal resource library for cooperatives, Co-opLaw.org, which provides a forum for sharing, organizing, and making sense of information related to the legalities of cooperatives, including sample bylaws, operating agreements, and plain english guides to coop law.
Find resources for worker self-directed nonprofits, that is nonprofit organizations seeking to provide all workers with the power to influence programming, change the conditions of their workplace, have voice in the direction of their own career paths, and provide guidance to the organization as a whole.
Find information on our project, Democratizing the Invisible Workforce, which works with low-income and immigrant communities to cultivate cooperative enterprises that meet the needs of our elders and people with disabilities and the workers that support them. Our first step in realizing this vision is to support the creation of a domestic care worker cooperative.
Read and download our facilitator guides so you can host your own intro workshop on the legal nuts and bolts of starting a worker cooperative called "Learning to Think Outside the Boss!" It includes a facilitator guide, skit, and powerpoint slides we've created to explain how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives.
Find information on the San Francisco Bay Area's first Worker Coop Academy, an intensive multi-month training course for teams who want to operate democratically-run, worker-owned enterprises, including replication resources and links to Academies across the country.
Find our downloadable legal manuals in both English and Español on how to create and run a worker-owned enterprise.
- Through our Law Center’s Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, we provide one-time legal advice and consultations multiple times per month across the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a space to come and discuss your cooperative enterprise at any stage of its development, from idea to conversion to operation. We also provide long term representation to a very limited number of clients. For those building worker cooperatives interested in longer term representation from our Law Center, please contact Ricardo S. Nuñez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current Advocacy Projects
Past Advocacy Projects
Our cutting edge policy recommendations provide practical steps for policy makers, urban planners, and advocates to support the creation of cooperative economies nationwide.
Find all the events related to our Cooperatives program, as well as the Teach-ins, workshops, and gatherings that we offer related to building a cooperative economy.
Be part of the movement creating cooperative economies. Find out how you can get involved.
Our Center prioritizes cooperative ventures for a simple reason: We believe that enterprises and assets should be owned and controlled by the communities that depend on them for livelihoods, sustenance, and ecological well-being. The legal architecture of organizations and enterprises is, in many respects, the architecture of our economy. Legal structures dictate how wealth flows through our organizations and how decisions are made. Traditional enterprise models are designed to grow the wealth of people who already have wealth, giving all decision-making power to those same individuals. By contrast, cooperatives put wealth and decisions into the hands of workers and consumers, building community well-being and transforming local economies.
Want more info about our Center's Cooperatives work?
Contact Ricardo Nuñez - email@example.com
APPLICATIONS FOR THE WORKER COOP ACADEMY ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED.
PLEASE COME BACK SOON FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO APPLY.
Below you will find application instructions for the 2015 Worker Coop Academy.
If there are any issues with the online forms, please email Ricardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please read the entire "Request for Applications," which can be found by clicking on the doc below or by downloading here: Word doc - PDF. After you have read the Request for Applications, please proceed to the online application forms, linked below.
Click on the document below to read the Request for Applications online
Now that you've read the scope of the Worker Coop Academy and the application instructions (you read it, right?), please fill out the online team application linked below.
Only one team application should be submitted per team.
If your team is selected for in-person interviews, we will contact you in advance for any additional paperwork and to schedule the interview.
If you would like to print out the application, please download it here. All printed applications can either be scanned and emailed to Ricardo at email@example.com by 11:59 on June 14th or delivered to SELC's office by 5:00pm on June 14th.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or email Ricardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to hear more about the Worker Coop Academy in video format, we held a webinar on May 13th, 2015, to provide an overview of the curriculum, participants, lessons learned from last year, and fielded questions from participants. Watch it here:
Reflections of a Post Wage-Slave Economy
Hosted by the Museum of Capitalism, this special pop-up teach-in will provide a space to envision what the future of labor looks like after capitalism. What do labor relations look like when workers have taken control of capital and the means of production? What issues would dominate the conversations of workers and communities? What mechanisms and tipping points could potentially lead to this future? And are there spaces of this post-capitalist economy in our midst?
Please join Ricardo Nuñez, Sustainable Economies Law Center's Director of Economic Democracy, as he moderates a participatory panel discussion by leaders working at the national, state, and local levels attempting to build those mechanisms and tipping points toward a cooperative, just economy.
MORE INFO ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF CAPITALISM: This temporary exhibition takes a look back on capitalism as a historical phenomenon from the perspective of a future society. It is an invitation for museum goers to inhabit an imaginary future in order to better recognize the historical specificity, idiosyncrasy, and contingency of the present.
55 Harrison St
Oakland, CA 94607
Google map and directions
AB 816 PASSED BECAUSE OF YOUR SUPPORT!
Because so many of you signed the Coalition's petition below the legislators in Sacramento knew that their constituents, YOU, wanted to see more cooperative enterprises take root in California!
NOTE: If you'd like to keep up to date with future worker cooperative state or local policy initiatives, SELC's worker cooperative publications (like our legal guide for Cooperative Conversions), or receive invitations to educational events about worker cooperatives, please sign up below! Thanks!
What is AB 816?
AB 816 will help small businesses, create jobs, and empower California communities by providing a business entity specifically for worker cooperatives within the existing Consumer Cooperative Corporations Law.
Read a detailed summary of the bill prepared by the California Worker Cooperative Policy Coalition.
How did people like you get involved?
They signed our petition below! We took the petition signatures to the California State Capital and told the assembly members and State Senators Californians wanted clearer paths to creating economic democracy at home!
AB 816: The California Worker Cooperative Act
AB 816 clarifies that the existing Cooperative Law applies to cooperatives in general, not just consumer cooperatives. It also creates more visibility for worker cooperatives and provides a framework for worker cooperative business formation. Worker cooperatives that organize under the amended Coop Law may elect to be governed as a worker cooperative, ensuring that workers will control the business in the future. AB 816 also raises the existing exemption from securities registration for the sale of memberships up to $1,000 (the current law only allows $300). That means you can crowdfund from your local community to invest (that's right, not donate, but actually invest!) in the creation and expansion of democratic, worker-owned businesses! AB 816 also provides strict guidelines for those outside investors regarding voting power and influence on the business.
AB 816 Provisions
Read the full current bill language and record of amendments.
We held an informational session regarding the 2015 Worker Cooperative Act on March 3rd, 2015 and recorded it for your viewing pleasure. Watch below at your leisure!
Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives * East Bay Community Law Center * Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC) * The Sustainable Economies Law Center * U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives * Democracy at Work Institute
Thank you for signing our Petition!
Those below added their names because they believe that cooperatives can build community wealth while providing just and dignified livelihoods. It was their voices that let legislatures know we not only want but demand more worker owned businesses in our communities!
NOTE: The first time you sign into SELC's website, if you uncheck "Send me email updates," you will be unsubscribed from ALL email updates from SELC.
SELC does not have the ability to text you about this campaign.
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
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.
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.
Our Vision: We want to live in a society where the domestic work industry is cooperatively owned, where workers are truly honored for the value they provide, and where consumers have dignity, respect, and independence.
Photo Credit: Nic Walker
Even though more than 4.5 million elders and people with disabilities are serviced by caregivers each year these workers are effectively invisible to most of America. The domestic work sector is inherently isolating and the industry itself is rife with incidents of worker exploitation. Workers don’t have a voice in the companies for which they work. Approximately 45 percent of caregivers live in households that earn 200 percent below the federal poverty level. Further, an estimated 900,000 caregivers do not themselves have health coverage. We can not allow this industry to continue operating this way. We will not allow domestic workers to remain in the shadows.
Democratizing the Invisible Workforce works with low-income and immigrant communities in order to cultivate cooperative enterprises that meet the needs of our elders and people with disabilities and the workers that support them. Our first step in realizing this vision is to support the creation of a domestic care worker cooperative. We believe that this enterprise will show how cooperatives can be a pathway for dignified jobs, worker control, and living wage employment for our low-income and immigrant brothers and sisters in the domestic work industry.
Why the Domestic Work Industry?
Domestic workers and caregivers are some of the most vulnerable workers in the nation. Most caregivers are women, and a large proportion are immigrants facing language barriers, immigration hurdles, poverty, and limited social networks. The lack of regulation in the domestic worker market additionally contributes to the vulnerability of workers. Without regulatory oversight or support networks, exploitation of caregivers continues to go unnoticed and unreported.
The work of caregivers continues to be undervalued even as demand for it rises. The need for domestic care services is projected to explode with the “silver tsunami,” the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation. Still, caregivers continue to operate in the shadows, with few workplace protections.
Why Worker Cooperatives?
Worker cooperatives, businesses owned by its workers, offer the industry an alternative solution that leads to the creation of dignified jobs for caregivers. Worker cooperatives can alleviate social isolation, secure fair compensation, and improve working conditions. Cooperatives prevent labor exploitation because they are owned and democratically governed by the employees themselves. They also reduce poverty because the employees share in the business’ profits. Cooperatives have been shown to improve the quality of domestic services by providing training and education for their members.
Worker cooperatives offer an abundance of advantages over traditional businesses and corporations. In particular, cooperatives are more likely to create stable fair-paying jobs, adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, provide higher levels of job satisfaction, and invest in the local community. When efficiently organized and managed, worker cooperatives provide the following benefits:
Wealth creation and economic self determination: In a worker cooperative, workers share directly in the business profits, giving groups of people an opportunity to become economically independent in a mutually-beneficial way. For example, worker-owners in the Bay Area’s Prospera cooperatives (formerly Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security) saw an increase of 158% in their incomes and an average return of 22 times their initial investments. The largest cooperative Prospera-incubated, Natural Home Cleaning Professionals, pays its members twice the average starting wage for commercial cleaners in the county.
Increased job security in economic downturns: In economic downturns, most corporations are narrowly focused on maintaining value for their shareholders, rather than maintaining employment for their workers. This typically means that corporations will lay employees off during economic downturns. By contrast, because worker-owners call the shots in their cooperative, they value preserving jobs foremost, rather than maintaining shareholder value. The result is that the workers have increased job security as owners of the business.
Control over the way their work is organized, performed, and managed: In a worker cooperative, workers take part in the governance of the business. This means workers have control over how their work is valued and organized. They have a say in how much they work and how they are compensated. Worker cooperatives also create opportunities for continued professional development and training of the worker-members.
How We Can Work Together
At the Sustainable Economies Law Center, we are available to provide a wide variety of tools and resources to assist workers and economic development specialists in the creation of worker cooperatives. Please reach out if you are interested in collaborating with us on any of the following:
Teach-ins: short but practical, participatory, and action oriented discussions!
Educational workshops: participatory trainings meant to provide deeper insights and understanding into the nuts and bolts of starting and operating a worker cooperative.
Referrals to technical assistance: Our Law Center not only trains attorneys and cooperative development professionals, we also are connected to a network of economic democracy practitioners who provide consulting, training, and support for new and existing worker cooperatives.
Legal information and advice: Through our Law Center’s Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, we provide one-time legal advice and consultations thrice monthly across the Bay Area. We also provide long term representation to a limited number of clients.For those building worker cooperatives in the homecare industry interested in longer term representation from our Law Center, please contact Charlotte Tsui.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact Charlotte Tsui at email@example.com.
By Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Director of Economic Democracy, Ricardo Nuñez
There has been a constant stream of depressing and demoralizing news this summer. A dysfunctional political system, continuing police violence against our black and brown brothers and sisters, and an economic system that continues to exacerbate income inequality. At times like these, we only need to look within our own communities to find hope and renewal. SELC Summer Institute interns teamed up with interns from Project Equity and the Community Economic Justice Clinic at EBCLC to take a day to visit spaces of an economy that redirects wealth and control back to communities; an economy based on solidarity. Below, our summer interns share their reflections on the spaces we visited, spaces where individuals are taking collective action to live out the solidarity economy SELC and our allies are working to build.
Thank you to Design Action Collective, the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, Mandela Food Cooperative, Arizmendi Lakeshore Cooperative, the Addison Court Housing Cooperative and land trust, and Phat Beets for sharing your stories of resilience and solidarity!Read more
Host your own "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop!
Thank you for your interest in hosting"Learning to Think Outside the Boss: An Introductory Workshop on the Legal Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Worker Cooperative!" Below, find resources we've created to teach about how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives. This is a shorter, participatory, discussion-orientated version of our half day "Think Outside the Boss" workshop.
NOTE: These materials are updated at irregular intervals and might change from time to time. Updates are based on feedback from participants and those who facilitate the "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop. Please send questions, feedback, or comments about this guide to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is it?
This workshop provides an introduction to the practical steps individuals and groups need to take to establish, build, and successfully manage a cooperative enterprise. This introductory workshop attempts to bring forward basic legal and structural questions such as what is a cooperative, what is a legal entity, what rules govern fundraising and financing for cooperatives, and more. This workshop provides an overview of the content contained in Sustainable Economies Law Center's Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker-Owned Business manual.
Why Do it?
This workshop is meant to provide an introduction for those looking to support cooperative development and for entrepreneurs and activists seeking to build a worker cooperative. By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to
- have a basic understanding of the cooperative form from a functional and principled perspective,
- understand the Cooperative Principles in practice,
- distinguish cooperatives from other business forms,
- distinguish between the different kinds of cooperatives,
- understand basic questions that should be asked when founding a worker cooperative,
- and think about cooperatives as they relate to the needs in their lives.
Facilitators should use a combination of lecture (minimal), experiential learning, and popular education techniques to engage the group actively in the process of learning about worker cooperatives and cooperative business development.
Beginning in 2013, SELC and the East Bay Community Law Center have been hosting half day workshops called "Think Outside the Boss" three times per year in the San Francisco Bay Area. These Think Outside the Boss workshops provide community members an introduction into the nuts and bolts of starting and running a cooperatively owned business. We go over legal issues in an accessible way to help you understand the relationships between cooperatives, employment, and community wealth-building. Attorneys, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, and more. We also typically host breakout sessions on specialized topics with attorneys, cooperative accountants, business planning specialists, and discussions led by cooperative worker-members. To find the next Think Outside the Boss workshop, please visit theselc.org/events.
This facilitator’s guide was originally prepared for the 2014 JACKSON RISING: NEW ECONOMIES CONFERENCE in Jackson, Mississippi. Their clarion call to build a broad based solidarity economy in the southern US led us to deepen our intention of making legal education accessible to those building economic democracy all around the country. With feedback from the worker cooperative community, allies, and others who use our resources, we have attempted to refine this facilitator’s guide in order to increase its usefulness to the movement. We hope this guide can introduce cooperative entrepreneurs, practitioners, and cooperative developers to the basic legal concepts when starting and operating a worker-owned cooperative.