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
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.
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 email@example.com.
This work is funded, in part, by a grant from the Clarence E. Heller Foundation.
Think Outside the Boss
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. If you are an entrepreneur starting a business, an existing business owner thinking about succession plans, or an existing worker coop looking for a refresher, this training is for you!
Food and drinks provided!
Attorneys, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals will give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, cooperative conversion, and more -- including resources and information on:
- What is a worker-owned business?
- What are advantages of forming a cooperative business?
- How do you spread ownership and control across a group of people?
- What are the steps and tax benefits for selling your business to your employees?
- How do you raise money for a cooperative?
- What are the tax and accounting issues in a cooperative?
- How does employment laws effect worker coops?
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.
The event will include breakout groups where you can dive deeper into cooperative conversions, speak with worker members, speak with cooperative attorneys, and more!
We would like to thank Village-Connect for sponsoring this workshop! We are excited to partner with Village connect to build the capacity of people to become more self-aware and self-directed, resulting in sustainable, positive transformation. Village connect has been in existence for over 20 years, instilling core values of communication, respect, love, and trust.
REPAIRED NATIONS creates redress for historic trends of colonization and oppression through cooperative training and development for collective ownership. Initially, REPAIRED NATIONS focuses on building wealth in Black communities by giving youth the tools needed to remain rooted: access to land and access to capital. Bookclubs, Workshops, and Trainings will educate and inspire communities to engage in cooperative effort, while giving grounded, practical skills for collective ownership.
Please help us spread the word! Share this page to your social networks and download the flyer for this workshop here! Co-presented with the Repaired Nations and Village-Connect!
We are looking for volunteers to support this workshop. If you are interested in attending and would like to volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!
No one turned away for lack of funds!
1572 150th Ave
San Leandro, CA 94578
Google map and directions
We will honor the cultures whose ancestors relied on oral histories and education; comprehension and intelligence go deeper than Eurocentric Training. We tap into the organic intellectual streak present in communities often not included in Eurocentric, institutional learning environments. We bridge two spaces: (1) the natural learned expertise and expertise of underrepresented communities and (2) the bodies of literature they may otherwise not engage as sources of information. We cross the divide between education and soul activation. We translate solutions into a medium that is expertise, but is often overlooked because of value propositions. We gather to show people the power inherent in themselves, and facilitate community reflections that evidences greatness and deep knowledge.
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 book club is for you!
Food and drinks provided!
This event is being sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation through partnership with Repaired Nations.
1001 83rd Ave
Oakland, CA 94621
Google map and directions
Find all the events that Repaired Nations hosts to build cooperative power in black communities in the San Francisco East Bay!
Sustainable Economies Law Center and Repaired Nations have joined forces to begin a concerted effort to bring cooperative resources to Black Communities, starting in East Oakland and Richmond, CA. Repaired Nations was created in 2018 as a container for Greg Jackson's Equal Justice Works fellowship, hosted by the Law Center. Greg embarked on a 2 year fellowship that focused on expanding the impact the Law Center has in African American communities, an explicit effort to be more equitable in the creation of cooperatives for the liberation and autonomy of frontline, marginalized communities.
Please, help us get the word out about our upcoming Repaired Nations events. Share with your friends or networks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn! If you're interested in an event, someone you know will probably be interested too. Share the love!
A National Legal Landscape to Support Worker Cooperatives
Our mission is to cultivate a new legal landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. We provide essential legal tools - education, research, advice, and advocacy - so communities everywhere can develop their own sustainable sources of food, housing, energy, jobs, and other vital aspects of a thriving community. The Law Center focuses on worker cooperatives and other democratically-governed enterprises because they provide pathways out of poverty, economic stability for working families, and wealth generation for thriving, resilient communities.
During our years of supporting movements toward democratic, employee ownership, there has been an exponential growth of community-focused entrepreneurs launching cooperatives and existing business owners seeking to sell to their employees. Both groups face a glaring gap: competent legal expertise and legal resources critical to entrepreneurs as they transition to worker ownership. In the Fall of 2018, the Law Center began on an ambitious path to addresses these gaps through funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Through a multi-pronged approach of seven integrated projects, we are beginning to address the gap in legal expertise and legal resources for a national transition towards democratic employee ownership. These projects described below will be shaped and evolve based on the input from stakeholders across the country. However, even as these projects adapt to the needs of our communities, we thought you should know about the initial concepts.
Want to stay up to date on our project listed below? Subscribe to email updates or update your to email preferences about our worker cooperative resources, trainings, & events at the bottom of the page.
Community Education Video Series
Our Community Education Video Series will demystify and build understanding of the various models of worker and employee ownership for entrepreneurs and community based organizations (CBO) integrating employee ownership into their social enterprises. Ricardo will lead the Community Education Video Series covering the various forms of worker ownership featuring conversations with experienced attorneys, worker-owners, and thought leaders. A decision matrix guiding entrepreneurs through appropriate worker ownership options will complement the video series which will published online in thematic modules.
Our Community Education Video Series will provide an overview of the various forms of worker ownership and describe the legal advantages/drawbacks of choosing one form over another. By the end of the funding cycle, this video series will be used by 100 cooperative attorneys, entrepreneurs, and CBOs and published on Co-opLaw.org.
Our comprehensive worker-owner legal resource library, Co-opLaw.org, will provide a central legal resource hub for attorneys and entrepreneurs ready to dive deeper into cooperative law and serve as a place to disseminate the resources created through this project. These resources will lower the cost of legal services needed to launch a worker cooperative or transition a business to worker ownership.
Co-opLaw.org will be redesigned to increase usability and expand cooperative law concepts. By the end of the funding cycle it will included a detailed analysis of cooperative formation options and sample documents for all 50 states.
National Cooperative Law Fellowship
Our national legal incubator for cooperative attorneys, the National Cooperative Law Fellowship, will support a national system for attorneys learning cooperative law and providing legal services to low-income communities and communities of color.
A National Cooperative Law Fellowship will provide incubation resources to Fellows including monthly calls where Fellows present and ask questions to other attorneys in a confidential, safe space. Fellows will also attend two in-person convenings per Project Year featuring intensive training, networking, and mentorship. By the end of Year 2, the program will be designing a pilot system helping Fellows get hands-on experience in cooperative lawyering. By the end of the funding cycle, up to 15 new attorneys will be Fellows in the incubation program, and up to 15 attorneys in their first six months as Fellows will receive stipends.
Legal Practice Guide for Advising CA Cooperatives
Our California Practice Guide for Attorneys Focused on Worker Cooperatives, the first of its kind in the nation, will help to mainstream the practice of cooperative law and will be crafted for easy replication and adaptation in other states nationwide. A comprehensive Legal Practice Guide for Advising California Cooperatives will provide fully developed, step-by-step procedures for attorneys advising cooperative clients, including tips and tactics, strategic options, and lists of what to consider and how to proceed when advising employee owned enterprises.
Online Training Program for Cooperative Attorneys
Our Intensive Online Training Program for Cooperative Attorneys will empower attorneys to specialize in serving democratic, employee-owned businesses and deepen their legal expertise via an anytime, on-demand, massive online open course. An Online Training Program for Cooperative Attorneys will be developed with materials created and refined through the Fellowship’s intensive in-person trainings and other resources. By the end of Year 3, this training program will be online and tested by at least 30 attorneys.
Cooperative Professionals Guild
The national association of worker cooperative attorneys, the Cooperative Professionals Guild, will convene cooperative attorneys and accountants in a peer support network with ongoing learning opportunities.
An expanded Cooperative Professionals Guild, operating as a project of Sustainable Economies Law Center, will provide peer support, ongoing training, and networking opportunities. By the end of Year 3 at least 50 attorneys who specialize in providing legal and technical assistance to worker-owned enterprises will be participating in the Guild which will coordinate at least one national conference for cooperative attorneys and accountants each year of the project.
Law for Economic Democracy Network
Our integrated online technology platform, the Law for Economic Democracy Network (formerly known as NextLegal.org), will provide an online social network for attorneys learning cooperative law, a space for training, mentorship, and networking, and an entry to the broader cooperative law community. This online community will provide legal professionals a place to learn, share, and support each other in providing high-quality legal services to cooperatives of all kinds. By the end of Year 3, NextLegal.org will have increased its membership by 200+ legal professionals.
Get email updates about worker cooperatives resources, trainings, & events!
Subscribe to the Law Center's email updates about worker cooperatives resources, trainings, and events, which we only send occasionally and usually based on your interests, below! Want to subscribe to email updates about our different programs, such as our Food and Farmland, Housing, and Energy programs? Please visit our general sign up page here.
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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.Read more
(1) Forging Cooperative Connections between Ghana and the US.
We are organizing a cultural exchange trip that is primarily focused on creating pathways for African Americans to reinvest in Ghana regeneratively, without perpetuating the problems of capitalism. Our cultural exchange invites East African, West African, and U.S. cooperatives to begin dialogue for a co-created equitable development policy for Ghanaian economic development, and beyond. Dialogue is the key to our trip, for only through dialogue can two distanced peoples begin to find synergies between themselves, and only through dialogue can new arrivals to Ghana know what Ghanaians want for Ghana and how to help steward this vision. In partnership with the Ghana Cooperatives Council, we will host a conference in Accra at the National History Museum where attendees will share knowledge and experience while co-creating equitable development policy.
Dialogue is the key to our trip; it is only through dialogue that two distanced peoples with shared roots can begin to find synergies between themselves, and only through dialogue can new arrivals to Africa know what Africans want for Africa and how to help steward their visions. Co-created equitable development policy can only be built upon discussion, exchange of ideas, and information. This conference will begin, re-establish, and strengthen economic relationships throughout the African Diaspora.
Please email greg(at)theselc.org to reserve space on the trip, then make your deposit here.
(2) Equitable Cooperative Development Policy
The growing American cohort is a group of cooperative-minded people seeking to learn how Ghanaians in particular, and Africans in general, structure their collective efforts, to offer our experience and expertise to local projects, and to engage critical conversation regarding international cooperative exchange of resources. Attendees will form relationships that bloom into
- Cultural content,
- Import/export agreements,
- Thought partnership, and
- Community-owned real estate development uniquely structured to prevent displacement.
As global pressures from capital begin to move more and more Black residents from their homes, repatriating back to West Africa begins to make sense for the financial realities of many displaced people. We seek to build bridges now, and begin dialogue with Ghanaians to understand how capital pressures affect their lives and how an influx of cooperative effort from African Americans can increase their capacity to develop and co-own their own neighborhoods, instead of allowing outside capitalists to determine how neighborhoods are developed based solely on property ownership.
(3) Coast to Culture Podcast
Our podcast, Coast to Culture, will document how cultural exchange attendees are approaching the Year of Return. Each person will give regular updates on how planning for the trip, and participating in the Year of Return has affected them emotionally, financially, interpersonally, and spiritually. Exchange organizers will share knowledge and revelations from their experience developing the exchange trip. Upon return to the Motherland, Coast to Culture hosts will interview experts in culture, law, business, and cooperative enterprises to help ground the audience in African cooperative business opportunities and how to prepare for international business between the U.S. and West Africa. We will forefront how welcoming Ghanaians are to cooperative business and how well African-Americans are received during the Year of Return. All of our podcast segments seek to spark engagement with cooperatives about Ghana's open door policy for the African Diaspora.
Please email greg(at)theselc.org to reserve space on the trip, then make your deposit here.
Tentative Ghana Cooperative Exchange Itinerary
October 11 - Arrival Flight
October 12 - Dinner & Artist Exchange
October 13 - Slave Castle Tour
October 14 - Un-Conference
October 15 - Collective Decision by Attendees
October 16 - Collective Decision by Attendees
October 17 - Collective Decision by Attendees
October 18 - Closing Exchange Reception
October 19 - Departure Flight
House No 11 East Legon
Accra, Greater Accra Region
Google map and directions