The US has the world's largest prison population at over 2,217,000 inmates. What would happen, though, if we began looking at worker cooperatives not only as an economic development tool but also as a tool for those incarcerated by the prison industrial complex? What transformational effects could this lead to? Are there examples of cooperatives made primarily of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals and what can we learn from them? How can worker coops be an effective tool for those who were formerly incarcerated and how would it support re-entry?
For those seeking new, real solutions for our incarcerated or formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters, SELC hosted a discussion with Jessica Gordon Nembhard, professor at John Jay College, CUNY and author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.
Listen below!Read more
SELC is expanding its Community Renewable Energy Program!
We are at a pivotal crossroads: as society tackles climate change and the fossil fuel industry, we have an opportunity to do so in a way that breaks cycles of growing income inequality, and builds resilient communities that generate their own clean energy. In response, SELC has committed to bolster our sustainable economy energy work, hired a full-time Community Renewable Energy Program director (see below!), and is undertaking a strategic planning process to develop our energy program's approach to advancing a just, equitable, and rapid transition to renewables.Read more
By: Courtney E. Martin
(Originally published September 25, 2015)
"Janelle is wise about small. In fact, she spends her days thinking about all of the ways we can navigate around, subvert, and change the laws that inhibit us from 'solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence,' i.e. create worker-owned businesses and other resilient and radical kinds of community organizations. (She also spends her days sketching out her ideas, as she’s literally the 'cartoonist-in-chief.')"
By: Malcolm Burnley
(Originally published September 22, 2015)
"[O]n September 8th, the City Council made good with a ceremonious resolution 'supporting the development of worker cooperatives in Oakland.'
Among other items, the move recognized that these sorts of businesses — estimated to number between 300 and 400 nationally — offer wages and benefits above industry averages. The resolution, too, was a tacit acknowledgement from Council that the city will look for ways to support co-ops down the road . . .
What that municipal support might look like is to be determined. But in a draft ordinance authored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), one of the organizing forces behind the referendum, the wish list for worker co-ops includes: getting the city to offer low-interest loans for converting traditional businesses into worker co-ops; preferential status to co-ops in the city contract procurement process; and waiving taxes and permit fees in the initial year of existence."
Last Friday the California State Legislature passed AB 234 - a bill to improve the law affecting "community food producers" and gleaners who provide fresh fruits and vegetables to people in California.
You can read more about the bill and legal background in our previous Food News Blog post here.
The bill is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature or veto. This is the last step in the lawmaking process. We will know by October 11 whether this bill will become law effective January 1, 2016. We think that it is very likely that the Governor will sign the bill. We will write a follow-up post after the Governor announces what he has decided to do with the bill.Read more
At the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) we frequently run up against the challenge of agricultural and food safety laws that are not designed with the local food movement in mind. So many of these laws are clearly designed to facilitate a food system comprised of long distribution chains catering to very large enterprises. The idea of direct, farmer-to-consumer transactions is sometimes just not contemplated as a real possibility by the law.
We at SELC believe that agricultural regulations should be more risk-appropriate and scale-appropriate in order to remove unnecessary barriers to small-scale sustainable farming, community-supported enterprises, farmer-to-consumer sales, and local food consumption generally. That's why we have advocated for laws such as the California Homemade Food Act and the Neighborhood Food Act, and supported local initiatives to legalize urban agriculture, among our many policy campaigns.
OAKLAND, CA (September 8, 2015) — The day after Labor Day, Oakland City Council made a bold proclamation in support of democratic and equitable workplaces, passing the “Resolution Supporting the Development of Worker Cooperatives In Oakland.” The Sustainable Economies Law Center championed this resolution in partnership with District 4 Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, Council President and District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, and many organizational partners and allies.Read more
"The Oakland City Council is considering a resolution to support an unconventional business model that some say can help fight income inequality in the East Bay. The resolution, which the council will review at its September 8 meeting, is aimed at encouraging the development of worker cooperatives, which are businesses that are owned and governed by employees, meaning workers share profits and tend to make above-average wages.
"The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), an Oakland-based nonprofit that worked with Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington on the resolution, said the measure is largely symbolic but hopes it will be a precursor to the passage of more concrete reforms that would incentivize the growth of these businesses in the city."
By: Sara Stephens
(Originally published August 31, 2015)
"On Sept. 8, community members will pack Oakland City Hall to celebrate the City Council's groundbreaking resolution to support worker cooperatives as a powerful tool for economic development and democratic, empowering workplaces. The resolution will recognize the benefits that worker cooperatives bring to local economies, especially to Oakland, which is a national hub for such enterprises.
"Oakland will be one of the first cities in the country to integrate tailored support for worker cooperatives into its business assistance center.
"This resolution is a first step toward a broader worker cooperative development strategy. Following this event, the Sustainable Economies Law Center and partner organizations will work with Councilwoman Annie Campbell Washington and others in the city to pass an ordinance that creates meaningful incentives and investment in worker cooperatives."
(Oakland, CA) – Governor Brown announced today that he signed a bill into law to facilitate the creation of worker-owned cooperative businesses in California. The new law, Assembly Bill 816, will remove unnecessary barriers to the creation of new worker cooperatives in California and improve operations for some existing worker cooperatives.
Did you know that Oakland, California is emerging as a pilot city for more just and resilient communities? We believe cities are a strategic place to drive change, so we've been getting our hands dirty in our own backyard to test some ideas. SELC has been helping Oakland lead the way in supporting worker cooperatives and seed sharing, addressing climate change, promoting economic development without displacement, and removing obstacles for mobile food vending. Here's what we're working on in Oakland.Read more
The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) has been delighted to host Berkeley Food Institute summer fellow John Romankiewicz, who is looking at the barriers to entering the mobile food business, with a particular focus on food bikes! What’s a food bike you ask? It’s a low-footprint, low-capital alternative to a food truck. If you’ve ever traveled around Asia or Latin America, you know that most “street food” is peddled by cart or bicycle as opposed to food trucks. Some examples of local food businesses getting around the East Bay by bicycle include Bicycle Coffee, El Taco Bike, and Curbside Creamery (left to right, below).
We've come down to the wire!
The 2015 Worker Coop Act passed out of the California Assembly with bi-partisan support and passed out of the California Senate 39 votes to zero! Now it goes to Governor Brown's desk for his signature. BUT, there is still a chance that Governor Jerry Brown won't sign the Worker Coop Act.Read more
After our month-long #PeoplePoweredEconomies campaign, the results are in: you rock! We continue to be motivated by a sense of both urgency and opportunity to create people powered economies everywhere, and YOU give us the inspiration and support we need to make that happen. This is what a People Powered SELC looks like:
- Over 150 donors during the month of May
- 50 new Community Members
- Over $20,000 pledged
- Hundreds of dollars raised for our allies Richmond Grows Seed Library (Richmond, CA), Cooperation Jackson (Jackson, MS), and Phat Beets Produce (Oakland, CA)
- Oh yeah, and this…
SELC's City Policies Director, Yassi Eskandari, has helped lead the Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) to success in an eight-month planning process for Oakland's new Priority Conservation Areas. Read more about PCAs and the Coalition's wins.