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.
Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington reads Cooperative Resolution to City Council, September 8, 2015
Worker cooperatives provide many economic development benefits, including providing wages and benefits above industry average, helping to build wealth for workers in sectors typically populated with low to moderate-income community members. Worker cooperatives also provide a real alternative for succession planning that protects small businesses and prevents job loss. In support of the resolution, Councilmember McElhaney added that worker cooperatives should be used as a workforce development model for formerly incarcerated individuals, “giving people the dignity of ownership in addition to having work.”
Over 40 cooperative worker-owners, supporters, and technical assistance providers attended the City Council meeting to receive the Council’s recognition, with even more supporters watching from the seats of the Council Chambers. "This is my favorite thing I've ever seen here," said one supporter who approached the podium after the resolution was read. "How come we haven't done it yet?" exclaimed Councilmember McElhaney.
After the hearing, Councilmember Campbell Washington proclaimed that, "Tonight, the City of Oakland became one of the first cities in the country to publicly identify itself as a welcoming home for community-based worker-owned businesses. I am proud to partner with the Sustainable Economies Law Center to make Oakland a city where low-income workers can build wealth and own a piece of their businesses.”
Recapping the impact of the Resolution, Councilmember Campbell Washington stated that, “in collaboration with our community organizations, the City of Oakland will work to provide technical assistance, information, and education on forming worker cooperatives to the broader community through its Business Assistance Center.”
Organizers from the Sustainable Economies Law Center, Project Equity, and Democracy at Work Institute with Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington and her staff.
Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, City & Regional Policy Director at the Sustainable Economies Law Center and one of the organizers behind the Resolution said of the Resolution and her commitment to future policy endeavors in support of worker cooperatives, “In Oakland – a city ranked #7 among cities with the highest income inequality and experiencing a rapidly rising cost of living – worker cooperatives are one of the best tools we have available for closing the wealth gap and stemming the tide of economically charged resident displacement.”
The City’s recognition was accepted by Adrionna Fike, worker-owner of the West Oakland Mandela Foods Cooperative grocery store, giving an address that expressed the deep social impact Mandela Foods has in that West Oakland community: “People from all over the city and beyond express wanting more stores like Mandela in their neighborhoods. They love how it feels to be in it.”
Sara Stephens, Staff Attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center and author of the center's comprehensive Oakland Worker Cooperative Ordinance stated, “This is only a first step. Over the next year, the Law Center and a rapidly expanding coalition of partner organizations, cooperatives, and residents will continue to work with the City of Oakland to introduce a comprehensive blueprint for building Oakland’s cooperative economy.” Ricardo Nuñez, Cooperative Program Director at the Law Center added, “This Resolution is a landmark event, and we see it as an important milestone in Oakland’s path to join trailblazing co-op champions such as Austin, NYC, Madison, and Cleveland.”
As far as a vision for the movement, Adrionna summed it up best -- imagining an economy where food and other goods are “made and distributed right here, in and around Oakland, in worker owned cooperatives,” driving “a self-supporting economy in Oakland, one that ensures that everyone eats, and that all willing and able people have an opportunity to fully participate in meaningful, dignified work.”
Follow the movement for worker cooperatives in Oakland here: http://www.theselc.org/worker_coop_city_policies
Read Sara Stephens's op ed in the Oakland Tribune here: http://www.theselc.org/oakland_set_to_be_a_leader_in_workplace_cooperatives
Please direct questions and press inquiries to Yassi Eskandari-Qajar at [email protected] or (805) 637-2734.