Berkeley City Council Adopts Budget Referral for Worker Coop Development

BERKELEY, CA (May 29, 2019) — Last night, Berkeley City Council approved a budget referral that would commit $80,000 per year for two years to worker cooperative development services. The final number is still subject to change until the budget process draws to a close on June 25th. If adopted, this will be the City’s biggest investment in worker cooperatives to-date.


Sustainable Economies Law Center and partners preparing for public comment. Left to right: Yassi Eskandari (Policy Director at the Law Center), Foresta Sieck-Hill (Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives), Laura Smoot (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives), Alison Lingane (Project Equity). 

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Enthusiastically Sustainable Asian-Americans

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

OK. So maybe our blog post title isn’t as eye-catching as the book club favorite (and blockbuster movie) Crazy Rich Asians... But in our world, we work with so many Enthusiastically Sustainable Asian-Americans that we couldn’t pass up Asian Pacific American Heritage Month without highlighting some of them for you!

We proudly present: Adrien Salazar, Victoria Yu, Rob Yanagida, Onki Kwan, Crystal Huang, lora jo foo, and Joel Kim!   We’re pleased and honored to partner with each of these amazing enthusiasts:

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Farmers of Color May Soon Get More Support in California

By Nadra Nittle of Civil Eats

Excerpt: “Farmers of color are the fastest-growing [group of] farmers in the country,” said Neil Thapar, food and farm program director for the Sustainable Economies Law Center, which is a member of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative... “As our farming population diversifies, those are the people we need to serve. We need to help them continue and maintain strong local agricultural economies, which allows for more local food to be grown to satisfy the culturally relevant food needs of a more diverse population.”

Read the full article here.

(Originally published May 6, 2019.)

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The Cooperative Professionals Guild will convene its first independent conference this month

By Sara Stephens, Law Center Staff Attorney

From May 30-June 1, 2019, cooperative attorneys and accountants will gather in Chicago for New Horizons and Best Practices for Cooperative Professionals, where they will learn from one another’s practices, initiate newcomers into cooperative law and financial topics, and dig into legal and accounting challenges confronting their clients. One of the biggest hurdles cooperatives face is finding legal and accounting help from professionals who understand their business and governance model. Meanwhile, attorneys and accountants who want to support cooperatives have few places to turn for education and mentoring in cooperative law. The Cooperative Professionals Guild aims to address these gaps.

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This City Has A Radical Plan To Get Rid Of Bosses

By Robert Raymond of Huffington Post

Excerpt: BERKELEY, California ― In a 4,000-square-foot industrial space tucked away in a West Berkeley neighborhood, a team of glass blowers is hard at work. In one corner, a young man named Sam is repairing a piece of laboratory glassware used for cannabis distillation, the bright orange flames from his lathe dancing just inches from his face. In another, a woman named Laurel is concentrating on fusing powdered glass “frits.”

They both work for Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass, a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. But later this month, Sam and Laurel won’t be employees anymore; they’ll be co-owners of the company, along with eight of their fellow workers.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published on May 2, 2019.)

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Laws by the People

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

When I'm not hosting Legal Cafes and planning teach-ins for the Law Center, I spend my free time as an active member of the Community Democracy Project! (CDP is an all-volunteer campaign working to turn the power structure right-side up by putting the people of Oakland in charge of the city budget.)

We partnered with CDP because we share the belief that everyone can be a policy maker!

The problem is that so many folks are too intimidated to get involved in politics. That's why we hosted another Policy Cafe last month. CDP members Victoria Yu and Kyle Donnelly gave a presentation on how to run a local ballot initiative campaign and shared their vision to amend the city charter to bring participatory budgeting to Oakland. 

Check out the video recordings of the Policy Cafe presentation below!

Part 1: 

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Member-Owned Community Solar Poised For National Adoption

By Charles W. Thurston of CleanTechnica

Community solar projects are sweeping the nation, enabling individuals to benefit from solar energy even if they don’t have panels on their house or apartment building. The financial design of a community solar project may vary widely, however, which can make or break any savings that a system could yield for the consumer.

One model that has recently emerged in Oakland is that of a member-owned cooperative that shares a residential installation and includes both savings and investment dividends. This model, which can stretch to include a variety of installations within the coop, could help accelerate community solar projects in dense urban areas, where siting larger commercial-scale PV systems can be problematic.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published on April 11, 2019.)

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Seeding a 100-year vision for land justice in the Bay Area

By Chris Tittle, Law Center Director of Organizational Resilience

In March 2018, several of us sat in a rooftop garden overlooking downtown Oakland. As we discussed the future of the region, the city skyline suddenly appeared as a timeline, revealing the past and future imaginations of developers, city planners, and investors. We could literally see the concrete visions of developers from 100 years ago towering next to the visions of today’s developers unfolding before our very eyes. Taken together, these buildings represented much more than just a place to work or sleep, but an idea about how life should be lived and who the city is for. Undoubtedly, these people have a long-term vision for this city -- and their visions are backed by capital and political power.

Participants visiting The Cultural Conservancy's new land project

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Deepening the Nonprofit Democracy Network: Tools for Collective Self-Governance

By Sue Bennett and Chris Tittle, Co-directors of the Law Center's Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits Program

On March 27-29, 2019 the Law Center and an amazing team of facilitators and co-organizers hosted the second Nonprofit Democracy Network: Tools for Collective Self-Governance gathering. Over three days at the Omni Commons in Oakland, 60 people from 26 social justice organizations from around the country dove deep into the practices, structures, relationships, and cultures of workplace democracy.

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Workers Run Oakland… and the world!

Last month Sustainable Economies Law Center energized over thirty people to run on behalf of our organization at the Oakland Running Festival. Our ‘Workers Run Oakland’ campaign raised over $12,000 for workplace democracy, which enabled us to support our Solidarity Fund Recipient, Bay Area Black Worker Center, with ~$600.   

Our goal was to raise awareness about the legal education, advocacy, research, and advice the Law Center provides for community members at the frontlines of worker cooperatives and worker self-directed nonprofits...and have fun doing it! To spread our vision for a worker-run Oakland, we hosted a bunch of events to celebrate all of the wonderful workers we know: 

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Your Next Egg: Investing retirement savings in our local communities by 2020

By Janelle Orsi, Law Center Executive Director & Co-Founder

The next egg: Investing our retirement savings in our local communities by Janelle OrsiOur retirement savings hold transformative potential if we can get our pool of capital out of Wall Street and into our communities. Along with our partners at LIFT Economy and author Michael Shuman, we’re hatching a plan to channel that capital into local communities by 2020. Aside from developing and sharing resources on self-directed retirement savings, we’re aiming to build a group of 500 people ready to turn their nest eggs into a force for good. A group of that size can bargain with plan providers and custodians for lower fees and other benefits that smooth the path to local investing. Plus, we can collectively target our investments for deeper impact!


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The Green New Deal Means Power to the People

By Denise Fairchild & Anthony Giancatarino of The Progressive

Excerpt: The debate over the Green New Deal is growing more intense, but generating more heat than light. In some quarters, there is outright hysteria. (“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is coming for your hamburgers!”) But there is also a misperception across the political spectrum that the transition to green energy requires top-down, centralized control, as Mitch McConnell recently claimed.

...For example, in nearby Oakland, the People Power Solar Cooperative has created a community-owned solar project where residents pay less than the utility rate for electricity. Additional cost savings are reinvested into new cooperative energy projects.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published April 3, 2019.)

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People Power Solar Cooperative's First Community-Owned Solar Project Installed in Oakland

The 7 kW installation is a culmination of the cooperative’s work to develop a model for solar development that focuses on building community wealth and fostering long-term community ownership.

People Power Solar Cooperative announced the construction of its first solar project in Oakland on March 21, piloting a new model for community-owned energy in California. The residential-sized 7 kW project is financed entirely by small investments from over 50 local community members and leaders -- the cooperative’s Owners -- who have each purchased up to ten $100 shares of People Power. It is the first residential energy project in California to be owned by members of the broader community, and not municipally-owned, as far as the cooperative knows. The model is simple: the cooperative owns the project and will sell power to the homeowner and tenants at a rate lower than PG&E’s. The cooperative will, in turn, pay small dividends to the Owners who helped finance the project. People Power encourages anyone to sign up to learn more and get involved at

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'New enterprise' experiment to help all people to stand on their own

By Kyunghyang Daily News

Excerpt: There is a group in the United States that is changing laws to reorganize the inequality structure created by today's capitalism. The Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, California.

Read the full news article, our first coverage by international media, here!

(Originally published on March 20, 2019.)

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Food business incubator spot to open in Ashland

By Peter Hagerty of East Bay Times

Excerpt: ASHLAND — Leave Oakland’s Fruitvale District and travel south along East 14th Street beyond San Leandro, and food choices get limited to what’s available from a drive-through or inside a convenience store. That’s about to change in a big way. The Ashland Market & Cafe, a corner spot within an affordable apartment complex, will bring healthier meals to the low-income neighborhood while serving as an “incubator” for four up-and-coming food businesses at the same time.

...The space also will host community events, such as the “Pop-Up Legal Cafe” from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 11, when Oakland’s Sustainable Economies Law Center will offer a donation-based legal clinic.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published on March 19, 2019.)

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