Workers Run Oakland
We all deserve to work in democratic, equitable, and just workplaces. However, millions of people work under unjust conditions and awful bosses, without even knowing that a better option is out there! We’re working to change that by raising awareness about worker cooperatives and worker self-directed non-profits!
On March 24th, we participated in our first-ever marathon to raise money for our programs that focus on democratizing labor! Please donate what you can!
5% of all money raised during our #WorkersRunOakland campaign will go to our solidarity fund recipient, Bay Area Black Worker Center to support their work eliminating Black Poverty by increasing access to quality jobs and reducing employment discrimination against Black workers.
Repaired Nations Cooperative Development in the Black Community
"We can by consumers and producers co-operation, . . . establish a progressively self-supporting economy that will weld the majority of our people into an impregnable, economic phalanx." - W. E. B. Du Bois
|Photo Credit: Shareable|
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. We repair the effects of colonization and oppression by helping to weave interconnected communities into thriving, sustainable networks to equitably provide the essentials of life.
Our immediate goal is to educate youth of color in California about cooperative enterprise and develop necessary infrastructure for cooperative development in under-resourced, disadvantages communities.
We are guided by the cooperative successes seen across the globe: Black Cooperatives in the US during the 19th Century (read Collective Courage) and today, Italy’s cooperative approach to unemployment, MONDRAGON’s multi-billion dollar annual revenue, South America’s recuperation movement of abandoned factories, Indigenous lending circles . . .
"African Americans have a long, rich history of cooperative ownership, especially in reaction to market failures and economic racial discrimination. However, it has often been a hidden history and one obstructed by White Supremacist violence." - Jessica Gordon Nembhard
Below, please find information on:
Think Outside the Boss Cooperative Workshops
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 embarks on a 2 year paid fellowship that focused on expanding the impact the Law Center has in Black Communities, an explicit effort to be more equitable in the creation of cooperatives for liberation and autonomy of frontline, marginalized communities.
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.
Cooperative Bookclubs for the Black Community
The Law Center, Repaired Nations, and the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative are collaborating on a new learning pedagogy for cooperative education in the Black Community through cooperative book clubs held in East Oakland and Richmond.
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.
We aim take away all borders to participation and use non judgmental, non violent, constant communication. We uplift those who were shamed and disconnected from their opportunity to learn. Everyone is always right for participating. We create psychological safety in our group settings through very intentional facilitated discussions.
We make information more accessible by distilling large bodies of text into micro-modular segments. We confirm the natural intuition of Black Communities through our micro-modular summaries and facilitate conversation to elicit learning rather than rote instruction. We facilitate the discovery of culturally relevant conclusions, solutions, and pathways to meaningful, structural change.
Year of Return Exchange Trip
We are organizing a cultural exchange trip that is primarily focused on creating pathways for African Americans to re-invest in Ghana regeneratively, without perpetuating the problems of capitalism perpetuates. Our Culutural 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. Co-created equitable development policy can only be built upon discussion, upon exchange of ideas and. information.
We are a group of cooperative- minded people seeking to learn how Ghanaians 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 real estate development.
UPDATED Apr 2019
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Reflections on the 2018 Worker Cooperative National Conference
By Ricardo Samir Nuñez, Director of Economic Democracy
This September we hit a milestone: the ten year anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis that crippled the global economy. Institutions of international capital crumbled while the housing market collapsed. We had come as close as ever to proving that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” The systems that extract wealth from our communities proved incredibly resilient. It is only now, ten years on, that people are starting to see what a world beyond capitalism could look like.
That’s why spaces like the Worker Cooperative National Conference (WCNC) are so critical: they help expand the frontiers of our collective imagination and show us the future of work in action. These spaces show us the many paths being forged for a future where workers are compensated fairly and encouraged to show up as their fulls selves at work. The voices and stories I heard at the Worker Cooperative National Conference provided a radical vision of a future of de-commodified labor and comfort that we are a strong and growing movement.
|NoBAWC members representing at the Conference!|
BERKELEY, CA (August 6, 2018) —In a milestone moment, over a dozen Berkeley worker-owners gathered Monday to testify before Berkeley City Council members during a Small Business Subcommittee meeting.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, a champion for worker cooperative businesses, presided over the meeting. In 2016, Arreguin sponsored a City Council Resolution to support worker cooperatives, and is now sponsor of a proposed ordinance that would solidify Berkeley’s place as a national leader of grassroots economic development.
“Worker cooperatives present an opportunity for upward mobility at a time when our broader economic model creates broad disparity and inequality,” said Mayor Arreguin. “This is a progressive strategy that represents our values and will make Berkeley a model.”
One worker-owner at the meeting, Chris Taruc-Myers of Alchemy Collective Cafe, described how worker cooperatives empower those who are most marginalized by our dominant economy. “We bring people in from the service industry who have never been invested in before” and get to watch them “come to life.” But he emphasized that these enterprises face a long list of barriers, including financing. “Banks don’t lend money to those without it, so we had to bootstrap with crowdfunding, kiva loans, and hard work.”
The social impact of worker cooperatives was a common theme. “People like to see their values reflected back at them at the businesses they shop at,” said Colleen Johnson of the Cheese Board Collective, a 50 year old Berkeley worker coop and local favorite pizzeria.
Worker-owners and cooperative advocates also stressed that worker cooperatives offer a solution to the increasingly urgent issue of succession planning as baby boomer small business owners retire. “Our local landscape is about to undergo a dramatic shift,” said Alison Lingane of Project Equity. That shift could take Berkeley in one of several directions: local businesses could close their doors, be sold to absentee owners, or, if coop advocates get their way, be sold to the employees who helped build the business.
Berkeley resident and worker-owner Andrea Hurd also testified to the unique needs of worker cooperatives relative to a conventional business. “I transitioned Mariposa Gardening & Design from a sole proprietorship to cooperative ownership as a way to scale my business. As a sole proprietor, SBDC helped me,” Andrea explained, “but now that the business is a worker cooperative, they no longer not meet our needs. We’re completely unique, and the City can help businesses like mine by providing more specialized business development services.”
Mayor Arreguin’s proposed ordinance would remove many of the barriers these worker cooperatives face. If adopted, the ordinance would provide worker cooperatives with technical and financial assistance and bid preferences for city contracts. It would also support Berkeley business owners with succession planning and coop conversion services.
Addressing the worker-owners who testified, Councilmember Kate Harrison said, “You all are why I live in Berkeley. What can we do to make this [ordinance] happen?”
To receive ordinance updates: RSVP at www.theselc.org/berkeley_votes_worker_coop
Questions? Contact: Yassi Eskandari / email@example.com / 805-637-2734
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
Worker cooperatives around California are being impacted by a new law requiring worker-owners to purchase workers compensation insurance. As a result, many cooperatives will have to cut worker pay and benefits. Will you join us in the effort to change the law?
Background on the Current Workers Compensation Legislation
In 2016, the California Legislature passed AB 2883, making changes to the workers compensation law that failed to take into account and will have an adverse impact on cooperatives. Previously, workers compensation insurance was not required for managing owners of businesses. This is still true for LLCs and partnerships, but AB 2883 made a very significant change for corporations, requiring that an owner hold at least 15% of the shares in order to waive workers compensation coverage. AB 2883 failed to consider the impact on cooperatives where members manage an enterprise collectively.
Previously, some worker cooperatives in California chose not to obtain workers compensation insurance for managing owners, opting instead to apply those funds toward health insurance, long-term disability insurance, or higher wages. In some industries, such as in food businesses, the cost of workers comp insurance will reduce workers’ take-home pay by as much as 15%. One worker-owned cafe has reported that AB 2883 will cause the cooperative to lose $200,000 in 2017. This is a substantial setback for the worker cooperative movement at a time when worker-ownership has been recognized as a path to better and more stable livelihoods in California. The new Labor Code laws as passed under AB 2883 have major implications. Read our guide on how to navigate the new worker's comp law on our blog here!
Worker-owners of a handful of cooperatives, including The Cheese Board Collective, Three Stone Hearth, Home Green Home, Drought Smart, Arizmendi Bakery, and Echo Adventures Team, have convened to form a campaign working group to change the law. Right now, we are gathering support from other cooperatives and organizations impacted by AB 2883.
Sign the Petition
This petition will call on California legislators to pass a bill that would give cooperatives the right to opt out of the workers compensation requirement. The bill would essentially restore the previous provisions of the law in its application to Cooperative Corporations: In cooperatives where all members serve as officers or directors, those members will be allowed to waive workers compensation coverage.
By adding your name to the petition, you are indicating your support for a bill that would allow cooperatives to opt out of the workers compensation requirement.
By Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Director of Economic Democracy, Ricardo Nuñez
There has been a constant stream of depressing and demoralizing news this summer. A dysfunctional political system, continuing police violence against our black and brown brothers and sisters, and an economic system that continues to exacerbate income inequality. At times like these, we only need to look within our own communities to find hope and renewal. SELC Summer Institute interns teamed up with interns from Project Equity and the Community Economic Justice Clinic at EBCLC to take a day to visit spaces of an economy that redirects wealth and control back to communities; an economy based on solidarity. Below, our summer interns share their reflections on the spaces we visited, spaces where individuals are taking collective action to live out the solidarity economy SELC and our allies are working to build.
Thank you to Design Action Collective, the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, Mandela Food Cooperative, Arizmendi Lakeshore Cooperative, the Addison Court Housing Cooperative and land trust, and Phat Beets for sharing your stories of resilience and solidarity!Read more
Host your own "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop!
Thank you for your interest in hosting"Learning to Think Outside the Boss: An Introductory Workshop on the Legal Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Worker Cooperative!" Below, find resources we've created to teach about how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives. This is a shorter, participatory, discussion-orientated version of our half day "Think Outside the Boss" workshop.
NOTE: These materials are updated at irregular intervals and might change from time to time. Updates are based on feedback from participants and those who facilitate the "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop. Please send questions, feedback, or comments about this guide to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is it?
This workshop provides an introduction to the practical steps individuals and groups need to take to establish, build, and successfully manage a cooperative enterprise. This introductory workshop attempts to bring forward basic legal and structural questions such as what is a cooperative, what is a legal entity, what rules govern fundraising and financing for cooperatives, and more. This workshop provides an overview of the content contained in Sustainable Economies Law Center's Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker-Owned Business manual.
Why Do it?
This workshop is meant to provide an introduction for those looking to support cooperative development and for entrepreneurs and activists seeking to build a worker cooperative. By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to
- have a basic understanding of the cooperative form from a functional and principled perspective,
- understand the Cooperative Principles in practice,
- distinguish cooperatives from other business forms,
- distinguish between the different kinds of cooperatives,
- understand basic questions that should be asked when founding a worker cooperative,
- and think about cooperatives as they relate to the needs in their lives.
Facilitators should use a combination of lecture (minimal), experiential learning, and popular education techniques to engage the group actively in the process of learning about worker cooperatives and cooperative business development.
Beginning in 2013, SELC and the East Bay Community Law Center have been hosting half day workshops called "Think Outside the Boss" three times per year in the San Francisco Bay Area. These Think Outside the Boss workshops provide 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. Attorneys, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, and more. We also typically host breakout sessions on specialized topics with attorneys, cooperative accountants, business planning specialists, and discussions led by cooperative worker-members. To find the next Think Outside the Boss workshop, please visit theselc.org/events.
This facilitator’s guide was originally prepared for the 2014 JACKSON RISING: NEW ECONOMIES CONFERENCE in Jackson, Mississippi. Their clarion call to build a broad based solidarity economy in the southern US led us to deepen our intention of making legal education accessible to those building economic democracy all around the country. With feedback from the worker cooperative community, allies, and others who use our resources, we have attempted to refine this facilitator’s guide in order to increase its usefulness to the movement. We hope this guide can introduce cooperative entrepreneurs, practitioners, and cooperative developers to the basic legal concepts when starting and operating a worker-owned cooperative.
THIS GUIDE WAS PREPARED FOR A 2016 WORKSHOP ON STARTING A WORKER-OWNED BUSINESS. THE CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING THINK OUTSIDE THE BOSS MANUAL SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON AS LEGAL ADVICE.
ALSO, SOME OF THIS INFORMATION COULD BECOME OUTDATED, AND LAWS VARY FROM PLACE-TO-PLACE. FURTHERMORE, ALTHOUGH WE TRIED TO COLLECT ACCURATE INFORMATION AND GIVE THE LAWS OUR BEST INTERPRETATION, SOME INFORMATION IN THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING MANUAL COULD EVEN TURN OUT TO BE INCORRECT OR SUBJECT TO OTHER INTERPRETATIONS BY COURTS OR REGULATORS! WE SURE HOPE THAT’S NOT THE CASE, BUT, WHAT CAN WE SAY? LAW IS COMPLICATED STUFF! THAT'S WHY WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE USING THIS INFORMATION TO FORM OR OPERATE A COOPERATIVE.
Araz Hachadourian of Yes! Magazine covers the passing of a co-op resolution in Berkeley, CA which requires the city to create an ordinance that supports worker owned cooperatives. Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Policy Director, Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, is quoted extensively about how worker cooperatives benefit cities and communities.Read more