Reflections on the 2018 Worker Cooperative National Conference
By Ricardo Samir Nuñez, Director of Economic Democracy
This September we hit a milestone: the ten year anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis that crippled the global economy. Institutions of international capital crumbled while the housing market collapsed. We had come as close as ever to proving that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” The systems that extract wealth from our communities proved incredibly resilient. It is only now, ten years on, that people are starting to see what a world beyond capitalism could look like.
That’s why spaces like the Worker Cooperative National Conference (WCNC) are so critical: they help expand the frontiers of our collective imagination and show us the future of work in action. These spaces show us the many paths being forged for a future where workers are compensated fairly and encouraged to show up as their fulls selves at work. The voices and stories I heard at the Worker Cooperative National Conference provided a radical vision of a future of de-commodified labor and comfort that we are a strong and growing movement.
|NoBAWC members representing at the Conference!|
As the popularity of urban agriculture and community gardens rises around the US, the need to acknowledge, define, and allow them in city ordinances has become apparent. Many other cities in California have passed very permissible urban agriculture ordinances within the last decade, however, people are often surprised to learn that Berkeley has had only a very limited gardening ordinance that applied only in residential areas until now.Read more
Own Our Food Coalition Stands for Community Ownership and Control of the Food System, Warns of Imminent Uberization of Food
OAKLAND, CA (August 29, 2018) Yesterday the California Senate passed AB 626, a bill designed to uberize California’s homemade food sector. The bill has been backed by gig economy tech companies including Airbnb, Josephine, and DishDivvy. A coalition of community based organizations in the food movement and small food enterprises lobbied against the bill, proposing an alternative policy for expanding opportunities for home cooks in California while protecting them from the exploitation of Big Tech.Read more
BERKELEY, CA (August 6, 2018) —In a milestone moment, over a dozen Berkeley worker-owners gathered Monday to testify before Berkeley City Council members during a Small Business Subcommittee meeting.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, a champion for worker cooperative businesses, presided over the meeting. In 2016, Arreguin sponsored a City Council Resolution to support worker cooperatives, and is now sponsor of a proposed ordinance that would solidify Berkeley’s place as a national leader of grassroots economic development.
“Worker cooperatives present an opportunity for upward mobility at a time when our broader economic model creates broad disparity and inequality,” said Mayor Arreguin. “This is a progressive strategy that represents our values and will make Berkeley a model.”
One worker-owner at the meeting, Chris Taruc-Myers of Alchemy Collective Cafe, described how worker cooperatives empower those who are most marginalized by our dominant economy. “We bring people in from the service industry who have never been invested in before” and get to watch them “come to life.” But he emphasized that these enterprises face a long list of barriers, including financing. “Banks don’t lend money to those without it, so we had to bootstrap with crowdfunding, kiva loans, and hard work.”
The social impact of worker cooperatives was a common theme. “People like to see their values reflected back at them at the businesses they shop at,” said Colleen Johnson of the Cheese Board Collective, a 50 year old Berkeley worker coop and local favorite pizzeria.
Worker-owners and cooperative advocates also stressed that worker cooperatives offer a solution to the increasingly urgent issue of succession planning as baby boomer small business owners retire. “Our local landscape is about to undergo a dramatic shift,” said Alison Lingane of Project Equity. That shift could take Berkeley in one of several directions: local businesses could close their doors, be sold to absentee owners, or, if coop advocates get their way, be sold to the employees who helped build the business.
Berkeley resident and worker-owner Andrea Hurd also testified to the unique needs of worker cooperatives relative to a conventional business. “I transitioned Mariposa Gardening & Design from a sole proprietorship to cooperative ownership as a way to scale my business. As a sole proprietor, SBDC helped me,” Andrea explained, “but now that the business is a worker cooperative, they no longer not meet our needs. We’re completely unique, and the City can help businesses like mine by providing more specialized business development services.”
Mayor Arreguin’s proposed ordinance would remove many of the barriers these worker cooperatives face. If adopted, the ordinance would provide worker cooperatives with technical and financial assistance and bid preferences for city contracts. It would also support Berkeley business owners with succession planning and coop conversion services.
Addressing the worker-owners who testified, Councilmember Kate Harrison said, “You all are why I live in Berkeley. What can we do to make this [ordinance] happen?”
To receive ordinance updates: RSVP at www.theselc.org/berkeley_votes_worker_coop
Questions? Contact: Yassi Eskandari / firstname.lastname@example.org / 805-637-2734
By Neal Gorenflo for Shareable
Seed saving and seed libraries are on the rise as communities deepen their commitment to healthy, delicious, local food. However, several U.S. states, including Minnesota and Pennsylvania, began applying regulation meant for commercial seed producers to small-scale, community seed libraries in 2014.Read more
By Saki Bailey for Shareable
Excerpt: The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is an impressive burgeoning commons legal institution that's aimed at the decommodification of housing. It is pioneering a new legal institution for how we can own homes more equitably, collaboratively, and in such a way that they're permanently off the speculative market.Read more
Excerpt: Solar industry, renewable energy and environmental justice organizations and advocates applauded a decision today by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that will increase opportunities for low-income households to go solar, lower their utility bills and participate in the state’s growing clean energy economy. Following a multi-year process prompted by Assembly Bill (AB) 327, the Commission approved a 12-year solar rebate program for low-income homeowners living in disadvantaged communities that expands on California’s long-standing Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program. The decision was proposed by Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.Read more
By Victoria Paykar
CalSEED has gotten its fair share of applicants looking to bring clean energy concepts to market. However, we see an important group mostly missing from this collection of entrepreneurs eager to advance their hardware or software concepts in energy efficiency, energy generation, storage, electric vehicle technologies and more: nonprofits.Read more
Last month we shared 10 ways to make Sustainable Economies Law Center part of your summer. Now, we have even more summertime magic for you! Check out our upcoming events, recent policy news, legal resources, and new cartoon library!Read more
By Courtney Pankrat for Shareable
Excerpt: In the past 50 years, overall housing costs for both renters and owners have skyrocketed at astronomical rates in the U.S. The most drastic example of this is in San Francisco, California, where according to one study saw a "37.9 percent spike, from $2,900/month on average to $4,000/month even" between 2012 and 2017, Curbed San Francisco reported. Meanwhile, the median income in the city by the Bay is around $82,900. This problem, of course, isn't limited just to San Francisco or the Bay Area. Residents in relatively smaller housing markets like Denver, Colorado and Portland, Oregon, are in similar boats. Traditional housing options are clearly unattainable for many, and people are getting creative in how they meet their housing needs. Some of these have been around for decades, like cooperative housing and community land trusts, while some like tiny house communities have been popularized in recent years. Below, we take a look at some shared housing models around the globe that people are turning to in order to counter the high costs of living.Read more
Capital Impact Partners announced today that it has awarded grants totaling $50,000 to the Association for Black Economic Power and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, co-winners of its fourth annual Co-op Innovation Award. This year, the award recognizes two organizations leading initiatives that address racial inequality and create social impact through economic empowerment for residents in low-income communities.Read more
'Workplaces are commons': Q&A with Sustainable Economies Law Center's Ricardo Nuñez and Chris Tittle
By Robert Raymond for Shareable
Excerpt: Nobody gets to vote on the decisions made in the workplace, on who their boss is, on what they’re company produces or how it's distributed. When it comes to democracy in modern society, economic control is notably absent. The Sustainable Economies Law Center is an organization based out of Oakland, California, that puts economic democracy front and center in its mission to support community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. The organization provides legal tools, such as education, research, advice, and advocacy with the aim cultivating a new legal landscape that supports economic democracy in the broadest sense.Read more
By Ann Dermody for CQ
Excerpt: How would you like to have your own personal government relations or advocacy mentor on speed dial? Even, if you’d been in the business for years? Well, we’re about to give you the next best thing. We conducted 70, (yes, 70!) interviews with some of the leading minds in the worlds of government relations, nonprofit, advocacy, public policy, and fundraising, and asked them four pertinent questions:Read more
By Jason Spicer for CoLab Radio
Excerpt: The “New Economy” label is used by a rising generation seeking to promote economic democracy, and build an economy which achieves the three e’s of the famed “urban planner’s triangle”: environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic development.Read more
By Mark Schapiro for Pacific Standard
Illustration: Edel Rodriguez
Excerpt: Inside every seed library — and there are more than 400 of them now — is another tale. Here are seeds that have been locally cultivated, saved, and passed along from farmer to farmer. They are repositories of genetic information that have been quietly spreading across America during the last decade. They tell the story of how, at a time of unprecedented climatic stress on our food supply, people are fighting to expand their range of crop choices to respond to changing climate conditions.
As one company after another is purchased by the giants that now dominate the seed trade — most notably Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont-Pioneer, which together have purchased hundreds of locally based seed companies over the past 20 years — the libraries are defying efforts to homogenize the seeds.Read more