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

By Erin Baldassari of East Bay Times

Kirk Vartan, co-founder of A Slice of New York, puts a slice of pizza on a plate at his pizza restaurant in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, June 28, 2019. Berkeley will be adding worker co-ops to businesses eligible for loans, providing a new lifeline to companies that have a hard time securing financing any other way. The Santa Clara City Council will host a study session to consider what it can do to support worker-owned businesses. Vartan is hoping Santa Clara will then follow in Berkeley’s lead. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) 

Excerpt: While employee-owned businesses are a small minority of all companies in the Bay Area and in the nation, it’s a model local cities are increasingly eyeing as one to invest in and sustain. The city of Berkeley became one of the first in the Bay Area earlier this week to directly support the worker-owned business model, when its City Council voted to approve $100,000 over two years to help existing companies as they transition to employee-owned entities. And on Tuesday, Berkeley’s Loan Administration Board will consider changes to a revolving loan fund to make it easier for worker coops to take advantage of the funds, too.

In the South Bay, Vartan has been pushing the Santa Clara City Council to do the same. He helped organize a study session for July 9 that will feature presentations by Project Equity and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, among others. In addition to working with Berkeley and Santa Clara, the law center helped spearhead efforts in Oakland in 2015 that resulted in the city formally recognizing worker cooperatives. A push for financial support from the city is currently stalled, said Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, the law center’s policy director.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published June 30, 2019.)

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