3 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving a Day of Economic and Racial Justice

We put together a short list of ways to make your Thanksgiving a day of economic and racial justice:

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A New Economy or a Return to the Little Tradition?

By Tracy Bindel, Law Center Intern

How Spirituality & Economic Democracy Can Weave Communities Together

For the first two weeks of June 2019, I attended an institute at the Underground Seminary studying a Post-Colonial Survey of the Bible at the Church of All Nations (CAN) outside of Minneapolis, MN. What is the connection between the study of law and Underground Seminary? I’m glad you asked. Most seminaries do not have a lot of overlap with us at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. However, the Underground Seminary was a glimpse into a community that is pushing the edges of what it means to live in sustainable mutual relationship with each other, the land, and the planet.

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Making a More Democratic Economy, One Revolving Loan Fund at a Time

By Oscar Perry Abello of Next City

Worker co-op members and advocates outside of an August 2018 meeting of Berkeley City Council's Small Business Subcommittee.

Excerpt: The Sustainable Economies Law Center supported worker cooperative members to participate in the local policy-making process that eventually led to the changes to Berkeley’s small business loan fund in September. The center’s “policy brigade” initiative brought together a group of worker co-op members into a yearlong cohort, providing hands-on experience in policy advocacy work.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published November 19, 2019.)

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Santa Clara, California is taking steps to invest in worker cooperatives

By NCBA CLUSA

Excerpt: In a unanimous vote last week, the Santa Clara City Council adopted recommendations put forward by the Committee on Economic Development, Communications and Marketing to advance worker cooperative development in the community. The motion to move the worker co-op effort forward was led by Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published November 5, 2019.)

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Berkeley Just Made its Small Business Revolving Loan Fund Work for Worker Cooperatives

From the Office of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin

CoB Logo Mayor.png

BERKELEY, CA (September 25, 2019) Businesses that are at risk of closure because their owner is retiring or putting the business up for sale are now eligible for the City’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for the purpose of converting them into worker cooperatives, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council last night revising the RLF policy. This will help the workers acquire and democratically own and operate the business, keeping it rooted in Berkeley and elevating the jobs and wealth-building opportunities provided to its employees.

“Worker cooperatives are an essential part of our city’s economy and by helping lift them up we can develop new opportunities to promote these unique Berkeley institutions” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín has long championed worker cooperatives, introducing a package of reforms in 2016 as a Councilmember to promote and support worker cooperatives.

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Guest Perspective: Training for a New Economy through the Law Center’s 2nd Annual Law Seminar

Guest Post by Samira Seraji, Third-Year Law Student at UC Berkeley School of Law

Dozens of community lawyers and organizers joined the Sustainable Economies Law Center on Friday, October 11 for their 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law MCLE Seminar. Nearly 100 participants, including lawyers and non-lawyers, attended the day-long event, which capped the Law Center’s #PeoplePoweredLaw fundraising campaign.

SELC Executive Director Janelle Orsi presenting

Janelle Orsi, Executive Director of the Law Center, presenting at the 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law Seminar.

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How affordable housing activists are trying to thwart cutthroat real estate capitalism

by James Rainey, Los Angeles Times

Noni Session, director of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and a third-generation West Oakland resident, cultural anthropologist and grass-roots organizer at her office in Oakland on Sept. 3. Session and her cooperative are seeking economic justice by halting her community’s displacement through a cooperative economy.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Excerpt: “Part of what we will need to turn things around in this world is to have people become really dedicated and affectionate land stewards,” said Janelle Orsi, founder and executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center.

Orsi’s public interest firm is crafting the “justice easements” to lock in affordability. Like agricultural easements designed to preserve farmland, the justice easements will designate housing as the only appropriate land use, with an additional requirement — that future rent increases be limited to, for instance, hikes in the consumer price index.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published October 21, 2019.)

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Berkeley City Council adopts creative personal guarantee mechanism for loans to cooperatives

By Sara Stephens, Law Center Staff Attorney

Cooperatives

Last Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved amendments to its Revolving Loan Fund (“RLF”) Administrative Plan, recommended by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (“Law Center”). Perhaps most critical was a set of changes to the personal guarantee requirement. Cooperatives are often unable to access loan funding due to the requirement that a single member, or all members, provide a personal guarantee for the full amount of the loan, for the life of the loan. Such a requirement is not compatible with a collective ownership structure, where no single member owns a majority of the assets, where members may come and go more frequently than conventional business owners, and where members often come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Berkeley Approves New Financial Opportunities to Promote Worker Cooperatives

From the Office of Mayor Jesse Arreguin

CoB Logo Mayor.png(Berkeley, CA) – Businesses that are at risk of closure because their owner is retiring or putting the business up for sale are now eligible for the City’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for the purpose of converting them into worker cooperatives, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council last night revising the RLF policy. This will help the workers acquire and democratically own and operate the business, keeping it rooted in Berkeley and elevating the jobs and wealth-building opportunities provided to its employees.

...The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) worked with Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development on the latest proposal. This comes after a report by Project Equity revealed that half of business owners in the United States are considering transitioning within the next five years, with 85% having no succession plan, and a third planning to close down altogether.

“The changes the Council have adopted will make it possible for more workers to become owners of the companies they helped build, elevating the quality of their jobs and saving businesses from closure” said Sara Stephens, Housing and Cooperatives Attorney for the SELC. “These amendments will certainly prove widely influential, as cities around the country are looking to Berkeley as a model for how cities can prioritize worker cooperatives and more equitable local economies."

Read the full article here.

(Originally published September 26, 2019.)

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EB PREC’s Plan to Replace Landlords With Communal Ownership

By Zach Haber, Post News Group

Excerpt: The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC) is working to keep Black, indigenous, people of color and allied communities in the East Bay by communally purchasing and sustaining land and housing with local residents.

“The critical part of our project is that we take land and housing permanently off the speculative market,” said EB PREC’s Executive Director and third-generation West Oakland resident Noni Session. She, along with six other local residents, form the Black led and POC majority staff of EB PREC, and the growing cooperative currently has more than 125 other non-staff members including resident owners and investors.

In an interview with The Oakland Post, Session explained how EB PREC is replacing landlords with resident owners and investors who are driven by the desire to sustain the community as opposed to make money.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published September 19, 2019.)

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Are We Diluting the Mission of Community Land Trusts?

A group of people gather outside an apartment complex to discuss community land trusts.

Excerpt:Community control of land” sounds straightforward, but in practice it can be limited, fleeting, or difficult to achieve due to high property costs and the social, legal, and financial challenges of collectivizing property ownership.

Recognizing these challenges with independent housing cooperatives and the shortcomings of the CLT model, new visionaries are developing community-funded models for land ownership, like the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and the Community Land Cooperative in development by Ecovillagers Alliance.

Read full article here.

(Originally published August 30, 2019.)

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How to Run for Oakland City Council

By Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Law Center Director of Legal Education

Earlier this month, we hosted a Policy Cafe and Teach-In about How to Run for Oakland City Council.

Mari Rose Taruc and Noni Session shared their experiences running political campaigns for Oakland City Council seats, and the Law Center provided a step-by-step guide to running for office. Fun fact: you only need 50 people to sign a nomination petition to run for City Council! 

Check out the recording below to get the tea on:

  • How to secure endorsements,
  • Exclusive tips on campaign marketing, fundraising, and outreach, 
  • How to handle horrors of campaign management like a seasoned pro.

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People power: A growing number of groups are flipping the Bay Area’s insane housing market on its head

By Erin Baldassari, The Mercury News

The Law Center's Tia Taruc-Myers at her home.

Tia, right, and Chris Taruc-Myers, prepare breakfast at home in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. The married couple along with other residents in the rent controlled building they live in worked with the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative to purchase the property, after their landlord decided to sell.

Excerpt: In less than a year, a nascent Oakland organization grew from a small staff with some bright ideas and a website into group that is stewarding two properties for permanently affordable housing, with plans to soon acquire a third.

How did they do it? By relying on a lot of people, a new model for investment and some innovative partnerships. But in turning a novel concept for developing affordable properties into a reality, the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative joined a growing number of organizations in the Bay Area challenging the status quo of the region’s skyrocketing housing costs.

The cooperative, called East Bay PREC for short, shares the same goals as many housing cooperatives and community and trusts:  acquiring and maintaining properties as permanently affordable homes and businesses. But the for-profit company isn’t either a cooperative or a trust. It’s a combination of multiple existing models for investment and ownership all rolled together.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published August 25, 2019.)

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Why I’m asking you to donate $10 instead of $100

Written by Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Director of Legal Education

For our #PeoplePoweredLaw campaign, I set a personal goal of recruiting 10 Community Members to donate $10 per month as opposed to recruiting 10 donors to donate $100 today. Here’s a few reasons why:

1) Receiving Many Small Donations Makes Our Budget More “People-Powered” 

Check out the section on financial transparency on our mission page here. As you can see, we’re primarily grant-funded. But as many other nonprofits could also attest to, grant funding can be here one day and gone the next.

A few foundations give to us yearly, but a lot of them are just for one time projects. That means we can’t count on them as a steady source of income every year. In contrast, monthly donors tend to continue giving.

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2019 Solidarity Economy Tour

Prospera and the Sustainable Economies Law CenterOn July 29th, 2019, Sustainable Economies Law Center's Summer interns and a few staff embarked on our annual Solidarity Economies Tour! The Solidarity Economies Tour is a one day adventure where Summer interns of the Law Center visit cooperatives, land trusts, urban farms, and other spaces in the Bay Area that are the seeds of an economy we are trying to cultivate through our work; an economy built community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment.

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