We want to live in a society where enterprises and assets are owned and controlled by the communities that depend on them for livelihoods, sustenance, and ecological well-being.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center's Cooperatives Program works to vastly expand the legal resources and cultivate a fertile legal landscape for the growth of cooperatives for the benefit of workers. We provide education, advocacy, research, and advice for worker centered cooperatives, including the creation of legal documents and guidance for best practices.
COOPERATIVE PROJECTS & RESOURCES
Find our worker centered cooperative projects and resources for starting, supporting, or cultivating worker cooperatives below!
Peruse our Law Center's legal resource library for cooperatives, Co-opLaw.org, which provides a forum for sharing, organizing, and making sense of information related to the legalities of cooperatives, including sample bylaws, operating agreements, and plain english guides to coop law.
Find resources for worker self-directed nonprofits, that is nonprofit organizations seeking to provide all workers with the power to influence programming, change the conditions of their workplace, have voice in the direction of their own career paths, and provide guidance to the organization as a whole.
Find information on our project, Democratizing the Invisible Workforce, which works with low-income and immigrant communities to cultivate cooperative enterprises that meet the needs of our elders and people with disabilities and the workers that support them. Our first step in realizing this vision is to support the creation of a domestic care worker cooperative.
Read and download our facilitator guides so you can host your own intro workshop on the legal nuts and bolts of starting a worker cooperative called "Learning to Think Outside the Boss!" It includes a facilitator guide, skit, and powerpoint slides we've created to explain how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives.
Find more information about our critical work in partnership with Propsera, the Democracy at Work Institute, and others, to fill the gap in legal and cooperative resources to support immigrant leaders building economic resilience and job stability for their communities.
Find information on the San Francisco Bay Area's first Worker Coop Academy, an intensive multi-month training course for teams who want to operate democratically-run, worker-owned enterprises, including replication resources and links to Academies across the country.
Find our downloadable legal manuals in both English and Español on how to create and run a worker-owned enterprise.
Through our Law Center’s Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, we provide one-time legal advice and consultations multiple times per month across the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a space to come and discuss your cooperative enterprise at any stage of its development, from idea to conversion to operation. We also provide long term representation to a very limited number of clients. For those building worker cooperatives interested in longer term representation from our Law Center, please contact Ricardo S. Nuñez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COOPERATIVE POLICY ADVOCACY
Find out about the Law Center's cooperative policy advocacy campaigns that put our livelihoods back in our control!
Current Advocacy Projects
- Oakland and Berkeley considering adopting unprecedented programs to support local worker cooperative development.
- Everyday worker coop members are learning how to intervene in law and policy to advance the coop movement.
Past Advocacy Projects
COOPERATIVE POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
Our Center prioritizes cooperative ventures for a simple reason: We believe that enterprises and assets should be owned and controlled by the communities that depend on them for livelihoods, sustenance, and ecological well-being. The legal architecture of organizations and enterprises is, in many respects, the architecture of our economy. Legal structures dictate how wealth flows through our organizations and how decisions are made. Traditional enterprise models are designed to grow the wealth of people who already have wealth, giving all decision-making power to those same individuals. By contrast, cooperatives put wealth and decisions into the hands of workers and consumers, building community well-being and transforming local economies.
Want more info about our Center's Cooperatives work?
Contact Ricardo Nuñez - email@example.com
UPDATED JULY 2017
Why Worker Cooperatives Should Build Connections to Social Justice Movements
Join the USFWC's Racial & Economic Justice Council in conversation about why it's important for worker coops to be connected to social movements. We'll also have worker owners present their experiences and concrete strategies for workplaces to connect and support with social movements. Sustainable Economies Law Center is a member of the Racial & Economic Justice Council.
This webinar will be presented in English and Spanish and is intended for members and staff of worker cooperative businesses.
Cost: This webinar is free, but we appreciate donations to support the ongoing work of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives' Racial & Economic Justice Council.
About the Presenter: The USFWC Racial & Economic Justice Council is a member space dedicated to discussing how to best use the space to elevate racial and economic justice issues.
Por qué las cooperativas deben crear conexiones con los movimientos de justicia social
Fecha y hora: Lunes, 25 de febrero, 9:30 - 11:00 am (Pacífico)
Cuota de inscripción: Este webinar es gratuito, pero agradecemos las donaciones para apoyar el trabajo del Consejo Miembrx de Justicia Racial y Económica de la USFWC.
Únase al Consejo de Justicia Racial y Economías de USFWC en una conversación sobre por qué es importante que las cooperativas de trabajadores estén conectadas con los movimientos sociales. También haremos que lxs propietarixs de lxs trabajadores presenten sus experiencias y estrategias concretas para que los lugares de trabajo se conecten y apoyen con los movimientos sociales.
Este webinar será presentado en inglés y español.
Sobre los presentadores: El Consejo de Justicia Racial y Economías de USFWC es responsable de conectar a los trabajadores propietarios y miembrxs de la USFWC con movimiento más amplios para la justicia racial y económica.
At a time when immigrant communities are facing multiple threats and vulnerabilities, it is critical to fill the gap in resources for immigrant cooperatives and to support the leaders who are building economic resilience for their communities.
|Photo Credit: Boss Tweed|
What if you were forced to leave everything you had ever known and move to a completely new place? What if this new place didn't value your contributions and demonized your community? Unfortunately, that's what's happening now. There is an increasing hostility toward immigrants in our workforce and in our communities. This resentment is pushing immigrants to find new pathways toward economic stability and self-determination.
In the past few years, immigrant-owned worker cooperatives have emerged as a vehicle for asset building and community resilience. Cooperatives are unique in their legal, financial, governance, and management structures, and they need regular support just like conventional businesses. Around the U.S., the growth of immigrant-owned worker cooperatives have outpaced that of cooperatives owned by non-immigrants! Those cooperatives, and more in formation, are seeking technical and legal support but finding little to none.
Immigrants have started building cooperative economies, but they lack culturally relevant and accessible resources to scale. That's why we're collaborating to fill the gap.
Collaborating to Fill the Gap
Sustainable Economies Law Center and Prospera, two backbone organizations supporting immigrant-owned worker cooperatives, have joined forces and began mapping out how to meet the needs of our immigrant-owned cooperatives! Read here about some of our past work with Prospera.
Prospera has helped establish more than a dozen immigrant-owned worker cooperatives over the past decade, and in recent years, has developed a range of programs to train and support immigrant leaders and entrepreneurs in developing cooperatives.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is one of the only organizations in the U.S. that provides free or low-cost legal services and resources to worker cooperatives, and the Law Center is widely viewed as a leader in developing legal structures, policies, and other strategies to support the growth of a worker cooperative movement.
Prospera and the Law Center are now collaborating to develop trainings, events, support networks, clinics, and resources to meet the initial and ongoing legal and technical support needs of immigrant cooperatives. We are planning on rolling out these resources for Spanish and Tagalog speaking cooperatives in the Bay Area that will then be replicated for cooperatives across the country.
Prospera and the Law Center are planning on:
Building leadership and training peer support providers: We plan on training Spanish and Tagalog speaking cooperative members on legal, financial, governance, and operational matters essential to the success of cooperatives. This will provide a growing team of cooperative members the ability to provide leadership within their own cooperatives and support their peers in other cooperatives. In addition, the Law Center will provide substantial legal training to one or more members of Prospera’s cooperative development team.
Training lawyers and other professionals to support cooperatives: We plan on providing training to Spanish and Tagalog speaking lawyers and other professionals, in order to begin growing a network of technical support providers. The Law Center has provided similar training to lawyers across the U.S., helping the legal community gain cooperative literacy, but have been unable to connect with bilingual or multilingual lawyers to serve our immigrant communities.
Hosting regular gatherings and events to serve as a “one-stop-shop” for immigrant cooperative members seeking legal support: At least every six weeks, cooperative members and entrepreneurs in the Bay Area will be invited to attend an event that will combine workshops, discussions, a legal advice clinic, and a space in which cooperative leaders can build community, support their peers, gain access to a wide variety of resources, and build power for a growing immigrant cooperative movement. The Law Center has already provided legal advice to more than 700 entrepreneurs during similar events (called “Legal Cafes”) over the past four years. Early this year, the American Bar Association gave the Sustainable Economies Law Center the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access, in recognition that this model of service provision has been highly effective in meeting legal and other needs of low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs. Now, Prospera and the Law Center will collaborate to host similar events in which most or all content and advice will be delivered in Spanish.
Developing multi-lingual trainings, webinars, videos, online resources, and sample legal documents for immigrant cooperatives: Prospera and the Law Center are collaborating to develop a suite of linguistically and culturally appropriate resources for immigrant cooperatives across the U.S., including highly accessible and engaging legal documents, such as this cartoon LLC Operating Agreement, which was created by the Law Center for a cooperative incubated by Prospera. Resources will be made available on both organizations’ websites and on Co-opLaw.org (a resource site maintained by the Law Center).
Providing direct, ongoing support to immigrant-owned cooperatives: Both organizations plan on providing critical legal support and technical assistance to cooperatives in the Bay Area and beyond. This would include assistance with matters such as employment law, contracts, entity structure, financial operations, tax, governance, management, member training, workplace culture, and enterprise development.
Providing support to other cooperative development organizations: A growing number of community-based and economic development organizations have been reaching out to Prospera and the Law Center for help to develop programs to support or incubate cooperatives in immigrant communities. We plan on continuing to provide training and assistance to these organization as they develop their programs.
Building a National Ecosystem Supporting Immigrant-Owned Cooperatives
More info coming soon!
Why Immigrant-Owned Cooperatives?
To address the root causes of wealth inequality and institutional racism, we need to put ownership and control back in the hands of those most marginalized by the dominant economy. We are working with communities across the Bay Area and beyond to create new models of equitable development that build community wealth (not just individual wealth), empower everyday people as agents of positive change, and embed democratic control in the very fabric of the economy.
In the Bay Area, for example, there is currently no native Spanish speaker providing legal services to immigrant-owned cooperatives and there is no where immigrant cooperative members can go for legal advice, technical assistance, or peer support. Across the U.S., there are very few Spanish-language legal resources, guides, and sample documents for cooperatives. We are here to change that and build the cooperative economy that is centered on those marginalized by our current legal and economic systems.
UPDATED JULY 2017
We need economies made up of democratic workplaces that provide meaningful, dignified livelihoods to all people. That's why the SELC, Project Equity, and the East Bay Community Law Center created the Worker Coop Academy. The Academy catalyzes the formation and expansion of worker-owned businesses that will provide good jobs for low to moderate income workers.
Won't you help us reach our funding goal in order to build the cooperative economy of the Bay Area? Your funding will not only support facilitation of the Academy, but also the accreditation of its curriculum. We are working with Laney College to accredit the Worker Coop Academy so it can be offered for college credit across California! Give today!Donate
The Sustainable Economies Law Center's Grassroots Finance Program develops legal resources and policies that allow local community financing and ownership of enterprises and assets, with a focus on securities laws and local investing.
Why Grassroots Finance?
SO HOW DO WE DO IT? We believe that we need to look beyond conventional financing mechanisms and tap into other pools of capital, including community capital (savings and investments of ordinary people), retirement savings, foundation endowments, funeral and life insurance financing, and more. To unlock these pools of capital, the Law Center is looking at a combination of legal, policy, and coalition-building strategies. For a brief introduction, check out Farmland Finance for the Next Generation of Farmers.
Click below to learn more about our strategies, which include:
Securities Law Basics: Click here to watch a video presentation about securities law basics, featuring squirrel cartoons!
Legal Resource Library: Check out our Legal Resource Library at CommunityEnterpriseLaw.org for information on financing, local investing, business entities, employment, and land and housing. Also check out the Community Enterprise Blog!
California has a new securities law exemption for worker cooperatives! Click here to learn more about how worker cooperatives can raise capital using the new securities law exemption for community investors.
Grassroots Financing Guide for California Farmers: Check it out here!
If you have questions or would to get in touch about this project, contact Grassroots Finance Attorney, Cameron Rhudy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work is funded, in part, by a grant from the Clarence E. Heller Foundation.
AB 816 PASSED BECAUSE OF YOUR SUPPORT!
Because so many of you signed the Coalition's petition below the legislators in Sacramento knew that their constituents, YOU, wanted to see more cooperative enterprises take root in California!
NOTE: If you'd like to keep up to date with future worker cooperative state or local policy initiatives, SELC's worker cooperative publications (like our legal guide for Cooperative Conversions), or receive invitations to educational events about worker cooperatives, please sign up below! Thanks!
What is AB 816?
AB 816 will help small businesses, create jobs, and empower California communities by providing a business entity specifically for worker cooperatives within the existing Consumer Cooperative Corporations Law.
Read a detailed summary of the bill prepared by the California Worker Cooperative Policy Coalition.
How did people like you get involved?
They signed our petition below! We took the petition signatures to the California State Capital and told the assembly members and State Senators Californians wanted clearer paths to creating economic democracy at home!
AB 816: The California Worker Cooperative Act
AB 816 clarifies that the existing Cooperative Law applies to cooperatives in general, not just consumer cooperatives. It also creates more visibility for worker cooperatives and provides a framework for worker cooperative business formation. Worker cooperatives that organize under the amended Coop Law may elect to be governed as a worker cooperative, ensuring that workers will control the business in the future. AB 816 also raises the existing exemption from securities registration for the sale of memberships up to $1,000 (the current law only allows $300). That means you can crowdfund from your local community to invest (that's right, not donate, but actually invest!) in the creation and expansion of democratic, worker-owned businesses! AB 816 also provides strict guidelines for those outside investors regarding voting power and influence on the business.
AB 816 Provisions
Read the full current bill language and record of amendments.
We held an informational session regarding the 2015 Worker Cooperative Act on March 3rd, 2015 and recorded it for your viewing pleasure. Watch below at your leisure!
Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives * East Bay Community Law Center * Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC) * The Sustainable Economies Law Center * U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives * Democracy at Work Institute
Thank you for signing our Petition!
Those below added their names because they believe that cooperatives can build community wealth while providing just and dignified livelihoods. It was their voices that let legislatures know we not only want but demand more worker owned businesses in our communities!
NOTE: The first time you sign into SELC's website, if you uncheck "Send me email updates," you will be unsubscribed from ALL email updates from SELC.
SELC does not have the ability to text you about this campaign.
Film Screening & Discussion
Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, "What Is Democracy?" reflects on a word we too often take for granted. Sponsored by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, join Director Astra Taylor, Philosopher Wendy Brown, Indian poet, author, and activist Anasuya Sengupta, and East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative's Noni Session Wednesday, March 6th at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland for a screening and discussion. You don't want to miss this! ONE NIGHT ONLY! Space is limited!
Director Astra Taylor (Zizek!, Examined Life)’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.
Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated theorists Angela Davis and Cornel West, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers—this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means. Click here to get your tickets!
3200 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610
Google map and directions
Think Outside the Boss provides community members an introduction into the nuts and bolts of starting and running a cooperatively owned business. We go over legal issues in an accessible way to help you understand the relationships between cooperatives, employment, and community wealth-building.
We'll be presenting Think Outside the Boss over three sessions. This first workshop session will cover:
What is a worker-owned business?
What are advantages of forming a cooperative business?
What are legal entities and what should you consider before forming one?
If you are an African American entrepreneur starting a business, an existing business owner thinking about succession plans and you have Black workers, or an existing worker coop with black worker-members looking for a refresher, this training is for you! >>> RSVP BELOW!
Food and drinks provided!
Workshop Session 2 will cover:
How do you spread ownership and control across a group of people?
What are some models of participatory management and democratic governance?
How does employment laws effect worker coops?
Workshop Session 3 will cover:
How do you raise money for a cooperative?
What are the tax and accounting issues in a cooperative?
Attorneys, artists, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals will give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, cooperative conversion, and more! At the event, we will have bound copies of the Think Outside the Boss manual for paying attendees! You can also download it for free prior to the event here.
This event is being sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation and Repaired Nations and hosted by the Bay Area Black Worker Center. Thank you!
9004 MacArthur Blvd
Oakland, CA 94605
Google map and directions
Sustainable Economies Law Center y Prospera presentan ¡Cafecitos Legales!
Sustainable Economies Law Center se complace en asociarse con Prospera para presentar ¡Cafecitos Legales!, una primera serie de talleres en español que cubren preguntas que con frecuencia se plantean los emprendedores y trabajadores inmigrantes. En esta primera Cafecito, discutiremos finanzas de las cooperativas.
Le invitamos a que venga a compartir sus preguntas y experiencias. Este taller es gratuito y estará totalmente en español.
Sustainable Economies Law Center and Prospera present ¡Charlas Legales!
Sustainable Economies Law Center is excited to partner with Prospera to present ¡Cafecitos Legales!, a first-of-its-kind series of Spanish language workshops covering questions that frequently come up for immigrant worker cooperatives. In this upcoming cafecito, we will discuss cooperative finances.
We invite you to to come and share your questions and experiences. This workshop is free to attend and will be entirely in Spanish.
3301 E 12th St Oakland CA 94601
Oakland, CA 94601
Google map and directions
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|Interested in our theory of change for worker cooperatives? Check it out here!|
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