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

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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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.

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.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published August 25, 2019.)

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Workers rising: The push for city-supported worker coops is taking hold in these Bay Area cities

By Erin Baldassari of East Bay Times

[The Sustainable Economies Law Center was featured in the East Bay Times yesterday for its policy advocacy efforts in Berkeley following the Berkeley City Council's historic vote on June 26, 2019, to commit $100,000 towards worker cooperative programs and services. Read more about the important role worker cooperatives play in creating local job opportunities and the Law Center's contributions to Bay Area worker cooperative policy advocacy efforts.]

When Rendell “Ren” Boguiren got a job in college at a South Bay pizzeria, he wasn’t expecting it would become a career. Now, as a part-owner in the business, he can’t imagine leaving.

It was a transition made possible because co-founders Kirk Vartan and his wife, Marguerite Lee, made a decision in 2015 to sell the business they started, A Slice of New York, to their employees. Both continue to retain part ownership, along with 14 other worker-owners.

“I take a lot of pride in being an owner,” Borguiren said. “It’s something I never would have expected.”

Read full article here.

(Originally published June 30, 2019.)

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School's Out: Legal Apprentices Take Alternative Path To Bar

By Mike Lasusa of Law360

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund wanted to be an artist.

It was the late 1970s. She had an undergraduate degree in sculpture. But part-time jobs in the art world, including a stint carving gravestones, weren’t putting enough money in the bank.


The future Justice Skoglund started looking for a licensed profession where she could work for herself. She was a skilled writer. The law seemed like a good fit.

But law school, not so much.

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Farmers of Color May Soon Get More Support in California

By Nadra Nittle of Civil Eats

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“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.”

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This City Has A Radical Plan To Get Rid Of Bosses

By Robert Raymond of Huffington Post

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.

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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.

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The Green New Deal Means Power to the People

By Denise Fairchild & Anthony Giancatarino of The Progressive

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.

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

By Kyunghyang Daily News

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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.

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