The Sustainable Economies Law Center was awarded the 2017 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access by the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. The Louis M. Brown Award recognizes our center for "improving access to legal services for those of moderate and middle incomes in ways that are remarkable and replicable." Our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe Program and our Fellowship Program are two ways in which our Center is improving legal access for those of moderate income.Read more
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
Jamie Facciola of Repair Revolution. Photos by Gabriel Tolliver of Oaklandnorth.net
Meet Jamie. She’s an entrepreneur who first came to the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe in 2015 with a question: "If I reframe repair, will people come?" Since then, her business, Repair Revolution, has gone through many iterations. She’s brought together a cluster of neighborhood repair shops for pop-up events in Oakland, where Oaklanders bring their old clothes, phones, and small appliances to be fixed, and she operated a two-month-long repair salon at OwlNWood, a local boutique in uptown Oakland.Read more
CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2017 — The ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services has selected the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) of Oakland, Calif., to receive its 2017 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access.
By Subin Varghese, Community Renewable Energy Director
What if you could use your consumer power and investment dollars to drive a fast and equitable transition to renewables? That’s part of the potential of community-owned renewable energy: to expand opportunities for ordinary citizens to put their money toward community-controlled energy facilities that share not just electricity among community members, but the economic benefits of the enterprise as well.Read more
By Simon Mont, Organizational Design Fellow
It can be difficult for a nonprofit to stay aligned with its mission. As contexts change and opportunities and funding appear and disappear, leaders are faced with the task of keeping their organizations financially viable while maximizing impact. The pressure to keep the organization afloat financially and keep their staff employed can induce leaders to pursue strategies that are more responsive to funders than what the community really needs. Streams of funding will shift under Trump’s administration, and it’s important that we are vigilant about staying aligned and accountable.Read more
By Simon Mont, Organizational Design Fellow
Humans are truly amazing creatures. We can reason and deduce. We can intuit and feel. We have an innate desire to expand ourselves to understand more complexity, assume more responsibility, make bigger contributions, and develop into an ideal version of our selves that we can now just barely glimpse even in the moments of our greatest clarity. We hold visions of unnameable harmony and justice in our hearts. When we have the space to follow this deeply held, essentially human, intuition, we are capable of tremendous insight and creativity.Read more
By Chris Tittle, Director of Organizational Resilience
Even before the outcome of this year’s elections, we knew that for far too long our dominant political and economic systems have served the very few while driving us toward climate chaos, wealth inequality, war, and social injustice.Read more
The Sustainable Economies Law Center got a lot done this year, and we couldn't have done it without supporters like you!
Below is our 2016 Annual Report to highlights the ways we've helped create more just and resilient local economies across the country. (Click the image below to see a full-sized PDF with links!)
By Neil Thapar, Food & Farm Attorney
The holidays are by far my favorite time of year. I see family and friends, take time to reflect on the year behind me, and continuously listen to carols on the radio. Unfortunately, the way we celebrate the holidays in the United States also highlights some of the scariest characteristics of American society - mass consumerism, perpetuating national origin myths, and instantaneously combustible trees in our homes. Really, be careful with those Christmas trees!Read more
By LUCAS MCGRANAHAN for Democracy at Work
Excerpt: The question is how far democracy can be embedded into a nonprofit organization. This question is now being taken up by Oakland’s Sustainable Economies Law Center, a self-described ‘worker self-directed nonprofit.’ Because the Law Center supports worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, community renewable energy cooperatives, and other forms of economic democracy, they consider it important to practice workplace democracy themselves. In the words of staff member Chris Tittle, “distributing leadership throughout our organization has undoubtedly led to us to be more creative in our work, more inclusive in our perspectives, and more accountable to each other, our communities, and our partners.”Read more
Excerpt: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed one of the most stringent restrictions on short-term rentals in the country Tuesday, barring hosts from having paying guests in a room, house or entire apartment for more than 60 days a year.Read more
By Christina Oatfield, Sustainable Economies Law Center Policy Director
Reports emerged this week that a single mother in Stockton, California named Mariza Ruelas is being prosecuted by the San Joaquin County district attorney for selling homemade food - an alleged violation of the California Health and Safety Code’s provisions on food safety. According to the Washington Post, the LA Times, the Guardian, and numerous other media outlets, she could face fines, years of jail time and one or more misdemeanors on her record. Mariza reports that she was a member of a club that meets regularly to share, casually barter, and occasionally sell food. She told the Washington Post “There wasn’t anybody selling it daily. A lot of times, they were just getting back what they put into the ingredients.”
By John Collins for In These Times
(Photo Credit: FPG / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
“The local regional food economy we want, needs territory,” says farmer, activist and grassroots organizer Severine von Tscharner Fleming. “Global demands and pressures have lengthened supply chains and concentrated control—water pumped from our aquifers irrigates low-value crops destined for distant markets. Cattle raised in family operations are sold at auction to be fattened on feedlots controlled by the beef monopolies.”
These larger structural issues are shaping our national landscape, says von Tscharner Fleming, and her latest startup, a collaborative effort called Agrarian Trust, aims to secure alternative land access arrangements for new farmers.Read more
By Chris Tittle, Sustainable Economies Law Center Housing Program Co-director
All politics are local. No matter what your feelings on the Presidential race or the state of our national political discourse, there are likely many important decisions on the rest of your ballot this November. As an Oakland-based organization, Sustainable Economies Law Center endorses Oakland Measure JJ, the Renter Protection Act.Read more