Workers from New York's Center for Family Lifeand three of the co-ops they helped incubate, Si Se Puede cleaning co-op, Beyond Care childcare co-op, and Color Me interior painting co-op, tell their story to the Willimantic Inter-Cooperative Zone.
"In the Unites States of America, socialism and communism are considered by many to be bad, taboo words, but cooperation exists, and "worker-owned cooperatives" existed and prospered for many years to this day, thanks also to the spirit of enterpreneurship that is widespread and to the practice of democracy, practice that is tought at school, starting from the elementary grade. Cooperatives are part of the self-help tradition of America. Cooperatives are businesses organized by people to provide needed goods and services."
The journal has overviews of about a dozen cooperatives, including
In line with MIT's leadership in freely giving access to its educational information, the "repository of resources from the Fall 2010 student-driven reading group on worker-owned cooperatives, housed within MIT’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab)" is online.The student group inspired an upcoming course: "This spring, Professor J.
convert some rights established within a business corporation to membership (personal) rights, rather than property rights, including the right to vote and the right to an equitable allocation of the net income, and
establish a Mondragon-style system of internal capital accounts, which internally financed the business without significantly increasing its book value - or in turn, without increasing the cost of a new membership share for an incoming worker.
One adaptation from the Mondragon system that was requested from the MA bar was to allow some forms of non-voting outside stock to be held, in order for creative financing and to remove an obstacle for the gradual transition to cooperatives of more traditional firms.
Connecting Our Workplaces: Building Cooperative Economies The 2011 Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy will bring together representatives of worker cooperatives, ESOP’s, and other cooperatively-run organizations to strengthen the network of democratic workplaces in the Eastern United States. Through networking, seminars, tours, and storytelling, participants will exchange tools and solutions for democratic management and development of cooperative workplaces. We will share strategies for building systems for regional support and advocating for ourselves as we build momentum toward the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives. A new feature this year will be a full-day mini-conference in which participants will compare models for cooperative development.
Given the current economic climate, the ECWD will emphasize the importance of an economy that utilizes cooperative and democratic organizational structures to support equitable systems for exchanging goods, services & products and stewardship of the commons for mutual benefi t by all. We believe that democratic workplaces are the fundamental building blocks that power our work towards economic, social, and environmental justice and solidarity.
"The efforts of the Workplace Project have resulted in both local and state legislation to protect all workers, not just immigrants. Members of UNITY, a domestic housecleaning cooperative became strong supporters of legislation and worked to get a law passed in Nassau County. This legislation requires that employment agencies give domestic workers contract forms and notices of their rights, like facts about the minimum wage, overtime regulations and Social Security. Not satisfied with their local recognition, The Workplace Project pressed on for a statewide law. On August 31, 2010 Governor David Paterson signed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights This law will provide the same rights to domestic workers as are provided to other workers in New York State. The bill became law on November 29, 2010."
San Francisco's Rainbow Grocery is promoting other democratic workplaces by offering a 15% discount this Feburary to any customer bearing an receipt from one of the Bay Area's other worker cooperatives. An standing 10% discount is offered between NoBAWC member workers, but the extension of a discount to a customer network is an innovation.
"An all day, free to the public, festival in celebration of an emerging bottom-up economy for people and the planet took place in Oakland, CA. Approximately 450 people and 50 organizations participated, bring together worker-cooperatives, urban gardeners developing food security measures, advocates of human powered transportation, gray water activists and complimentary currency promoters."
Co-op 101: An introduction to worker cooperatives. A brief survey of the organizational, legal and financial aspects.
Kasper Koczab and Dave Karoly – Network of the Bay Area Worker Cooperatives
Resources for the Grassroots Economy Financial and development resources to meet community economic needs. Panelists will discuss the resources available to community projects.
Jenny Kassan – Katovich Law
Ian Winter – North California Land Trust
Jeanine Esposito – People’s Federal Credit Union
Erin Kilmer-Neel – OneCalifornia Foundation
Moderator: Janelle Orsi – Attorney and author of “The Sharing Solution”
Urban Food Security Communities must take food back from global capital. How are we building just, sustainable, locally-based food systems that meet our communities’ needs and provide meaningful work?
Dana Harvey- Mandela MarketPlace
David Roach- Mo’ Better Food Market
Gavin Raders- Planting Justice
Facilitator: Dennis Terry – Mandela Foods Cooperative
Building the Alternative The grassroots economy is a solution to the economic crisis and holds a vision of the world we want to create. How can we nurture a local economy that gives working folks power and control over the economy and their work lives, leveraging available resources? How can social and environmental justice work support the development of a new economic paradigm? How we can create more synergy and interdependence between grassroots economic projects? How can we build a just, sustainable economic alternative to scale?
Moderator/Facilitator: Gopal Dayenini -GAIA and Movement Generation
"he’s looking at entrepreneurial opportunities, He referred me to this very interesting article in The Nation about the Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, a network of worker-owned “green” cooperatives, including a industrial laundry and a solar-power installation company, that are supported by the procurement power of public institutions.. The Cleveland cooperative experiment is inspired by the Mondragon cooperative in the Basque region of Spain, which employs more than 100,000 people.
There’s talk, he says, about organizing networks of cooperatives in other places, including the South Bronx.
“How do you create a business enterprise that is in the business of social and political change?” he asks.
Worker-owned businesses could be one way. In Cleveland, the flagship venture is the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, which serves the expanding health care industry and is said to be “thoroughly green in all its operations.”
In Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Cleveland and New York and even in the Boston area, workers have built their own businesses, worker-owned cooperatives. They raise money and determine among themselves how it will be spent. Every penny they make goes to wages, back into new products, or advanced research. No personal fortunes are amassed, no hedge-fund kings siphon off the proceeds into crazy stock ponzi schemes. These enterprises pay better, the jobs are more stable, and they produce cutting edge research and technology and often out-perform traditional for-profit competitors. And you can imagine, worker-owners don’t often vote to move their own jobs to China.
What is a worker cooperative, exactly? How is it structured and how does it work? What special legal and financial structures exist for cooperatives? What kind of knowledge and skills does it take to work in one? What are the benefits and drawbacks? How are worker co-ops connected to other small businesses? To movements for economic justice? Is the worker cooperative a good form for you? This introductory workshop is for those new to worker cooperatives, or curious about their basic functioning. It will cover the unique cooperative legal and financial structures, and lay out some basic governance and decision-making models. No prior knowledge is necessary.
Presenters: Lori Burge, Peoples Food Coop and Poonam Whabi, Design Action Collective
This workshop goes in-depth to support people who are planning a worker cooperative project, and who need more information and tools to move forward. We ask participants to bring their project plans to the workshop for active development and reworking. We will focus on moving projects forward. First we’ll do an overview of various models and methods of worker coop development. Then participants will present their ideas, at whatever stage of development they exist, and work to identify where they may need more information or support. This workshop is intended to help participants make effective use of the remaining conference workshops. Participants will leave with a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of the cooperative development process, and a clearer vision for what support they will need to advance their own cooperative development plans.
Presenters: Stacey Cordeiro, DAWN and Melissa Hoover, USFWC
This workshop makes the radical proposition that strong structures of accountability lead to happy and functional cooperatives. We will focus on existing models for accountability structures: setting clear expectations, having job descriptions and defined job roles, doing regular evaluations, carrying through a termination process, and setting up grievance procedures. We will demonstrate tools for accountability from a few different perspectives from management coops to nonhierarchical collectives.
Presenters: Jenny Glazer, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative and Joseph Tuck, Alvarado Street Bakery. Moderated by Melissa Hoover, USFWC
The Balance Sheet holds the key to understanding your cooperative’s financial health, and it is a valuable tool for everything from cash management to strategizing about growth to deciding how much debt to take on. This workshop will review the basics of accrual accounting and will discuss in detail the various elements of the balance sheet. We will give special attention to the equity portion of the balance sheet, which can look very different for cooperatives than it does for other kinds of corporations. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers.
Presenters: Dirk Prindle and Roger Van Someren, Carlson Highland CPA
Asking for a loan is a stressful experience for anybody, but it can be less so if you come armed with information about what Lenders look for and how they think. Learn about “the 5 C’s of Credit” -- a standard model of risk assessment widely used by small business lenders, and how to present your co-op to an outside lender in the most compelling way. In addition to banks and credit unions, we will look at other alternative lending sources such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and discuss the affect that the current financial crisis has had on resources for cooperative enterprises.
Presenter: Margaret Lund, Cooperative Finance Consultant
This workshop will focus on current successful examples of unionized worker owned companies and work that labor unions and support groups are doing to create co-ops providing workers more control of their work and increasing union membership. There will be a presentation on creating a special type of ‘worker owner” union membership to complement the existing collective bargaining type of membership, providing unions with an additional source of members and providing worker owned companies with much needed technical and professional resources. Union resolutions supporting education about and possible funding to underwrite formation of worker co-ops, that have been presented to union members and governing councils, will be presented. These include work on educational videos and toolkits to introduce labor to worker co-op ideas. There will be presentations on specific projects in Oregon, Oklahoma and Maryland, and the historic United Steel Workers collaboration with Mondragon. USFWC Union Co-ops Committee, which was established at Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in 2007, will present its work, and discuss other ways that working people can control of local economic development.
Presenters: Mary Hoyer, USFWC Union Coops Committee; Gary Holloway, United Steel Workers
We knew it all along but the last 18 months made it painfully clear: we have been living beyond our means at many levels. In the last 24 years Equal Exchange has grown from a start-up to a cooperative business with sales of $35 million and assets of $20 million. One key to this success has been our live-within-our-means capital model which, in addition to member-invested capital and generally friendly lenders, includes a critical role for outside investors while maintaining member control. The workshop will share a real live example of accessing outside investors who almost by definition do not seek to control the business, but rather to support the mission of the organization while realizing a modest return. We will concretely describe the tools we use, from our bylaws to the disclosure documents to board-authorized dividends.
The CoopIndex diagnostic tool was developed by cooperative members and developers out of a desire to help cooperatives grow closer to an “ideal co-operative” organization, guided by the co-operative values. Although it is recognized that each co-operative is unique, it is believed that key elements bridge the differences and can provide a guide for the developing worker coop. The CoopIndex tool measures the coop’s adherence to the co-op principles and values, as well as adherence to its own identity, and its success in meeting its mission. In addition, it provides an overview analysis of the governance and operations from the perspective of the co-op’s members and employees, with recommendations for initiatives is specific areas. It will help cooperatives focus on areas that need improvement which will enable a more effective use of resources in the cooperative.
Presenters: John McNamara, Union Cab Cooperative; Peter Hough, Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation
"Their strong connection to one another, and to their community, provides real benefits: the three cooperatives distribute marketing literature for one another at least three hours each month; present at conferences together; host collaborative events; and are all part of Sunset Park’s community time bank. Members of the three co-ops have started up a babysitting collective internally. Most importantly, they have the mutual support and backing of one another. It’s a true social network, says Jackie: “The best thing we’ve gotten out of this is the camaraderie that we’ve gained—we talk, and say ‘How are you doing right now?’"
"The cooperatives offer a unique solution to the growing problem of unemployment in the Sunset Park neighborhood, where many residents are Latino immigrants. The three co-ops currently provide 46 jobs for residents of Sunset Park—jobs that empower their members to take control of their lives and livelihoods. It’s a different experience than wage labor, explains one member of Beyond Care: “We’re gonna turn it around. We’re gonna be the bosses.”
Rodney North, "Answer Man" for Equal Exchange, talks about the cooperative's mission, history, farmer relationships, and interfaith program as part of an environmental video series [non sequiter eco-tips bookend the chapters].
TeamWorks has started with a housecleaning cooperative in San Jose, CA, and they have plans for expansion.Some useful organizational planning documents, written by David Smathers Moore, are available on their website:
"So our challenge is not what to do with the business when it’s time to retire, but how to successfully navigate the transition to Generation Two. The oldest amongst us are now in our sixties. During the next 10 years there will be many retirements. For nearly a decade now we have been working on this new task by carefully hiring young, dedicated, passionate people to carry on. Seventeen of our 28 employees are currently owners; the youngest of these is 34. During the next year several more thirty-somethings will join the group of owners. One of these just turned 30. The transition is in full swing."