Category Archives: CWOP



The last session of 2020, for the Cooperative Solutions Working Group, was exactly what I needed ~ thoughtful, connected and soul-nourishing conversation. I am grateful to Rebecca for having the vision to not stop the work after the Mayor’s Advisory  Council, and instead, put this opportunity in front of us in this open and expansive way. I am also grateful for all the folks who join the sessions. I believe we are creating pathways to a more equitable, just and collaborative tomorrow and beyond.” 

Adria Powell, President and CEO of Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA)



This December, the Community and Worker Ownership Project hosted its last meeting for 2020. This month, we gathered participants into small groups to engage in discussions on their topics of interests; the healthcare sector, construction industry, union coops, public policy, financing strategies, the gig economy, and coops for Black liberation. The report back session was dynamic as people got to hear and consider directions for further exploration both in this working group and in their organizations.

Some summaries of those discussions are below. Further discussions can be had by reaching out to Rebecca Lurie at CWOP at the School of Labor and Urban Studies or coming to our next meeting. January 27th, 2020.

We wish everyone a good New Year since we need all the good we can muster! It has been a hard one. But I want to thank all the Working Group participants since it is through the advent of zoom calls that we have been able to meet and talk like this in a regular and engaged way to expand our knowledge, our community and our possibilities.

The full 40 minutes of the report back can be viewed in this video recording. and the time stamps for the different reports are embedded below.

Finance Strategies:

The finance strategies discussion included Brendan Martin from the Working World, industry representatives from SEIU1199 and workers active in cooperative business development.  Looking at the role finance plays in healthcare, there was a declaration of how horrible it is with private equity taking over the industry. Central to the discussion in this group was the need to leverage public equity to support the healthcare industry. To implement these changes, policy needs to change to allow for good nursing practices and care to be delivered through nursing home cooperatives. Supporting policies would enable both care recipients and workers to benefit through the formation of cooperatives that serve their interests and needs rather than the need to increase profits at the expense of quality of service and wellbeing of workers and patients. More and more, we are witnessing the long term negative impact of private equity in health care. To change this dynamic, this group focused on the need for public equity. The group put forth the idea that  “there needs to be capital available that allows for values other than profit maximization to be at the forefront.”

Public Policy: 

Informing this discussion were government and policy folks who look at what levers may support the expansion and success of cooperatives. Many questions were asked to help frame the discussion.  How can the state create avenues for innovation? How to frame business as a force for good, especially when considering worker coops? There was mention of  moving beyond the dimension of big government or small government and talk about a new paradigm. Economic Democracy” invites a very different conversation of something grounded in the community and industry we may be speaking of. It was mentioned for clarity that democratic worker ownership is broader than cooperatives but helps to expand the potentiality of equity and shared wealth-building. The role of unions and participation  in  broad coalitions was brought up through several lenses and seen as important to expand pathways to economic justice.

Construction / Real Estate: 

This group featured a discussion between two who represent industry stakeholders; employers and workforce training professionals. Together they explored how there is a race to the bottom for wages and conditions to save dollars and a race to the top for the few companies to win the most profits. Ideas exchanged as to how to  change the direction of the profits – to go to workers. With the ever growing need to support affordable housing, they were thinking of how to deliver real value to the projects so union contracts with excellent job quality and an integrated training capacity can be better leveraged in the affordable housing sector, perhaps with worker ownership and control of the profits. While union density is falling throughout the city, open shops are ascendant. Can cooperatives be a piece of the solution for workers, communities and the economy?


This group included representatives from the UFCW and garment industry players along with a longtime union and employee ownership lawyer, Deb Olson, from Detroit. Deb shared some stories from around the country, including efforts of the UFCW in other markets and the US Federation of Worker Coops and their Union-Coop Council who have experiences to share. This area of work was touched in many of the other breakout groups as the strengths of unionization paired with worker-ownership and control offer approaches to expand good work.

Coops for Black Liberation: 

This discussion was dynamic and hard to summarize. What was clear was that there is great interest in tying a cooperative economy to a deepening strategy for equity and justice. Here we heard of the importance of looking at ways to invest in Black communities as a way to reframe divest in the police to invest in communities. They identified barriers to Black cooperative businesses through the bias in lending and access to capital. There was an understanding of the importance of centering racial equity while knowing the history of racism and inequity makes it hard for us to demonstrate scalable solutions under these conditions. Old divisions of workers vs patients or consumers often does not lay the groundwork for shared solutions with solidarity for all. The old strategy of “divide and conquer” is at work. There was talk of the need for healing and the ability to recognize this need to heal trauma of white supremacy and oppression that is brought to the fore at work, with money and resources, and in our communities as we struggle for a just economy.


The healthcare discussion featured scholars in the healthcare/coop space with intersecting projects on unionized and non-unionized research of coops in healthcare spaces. Their research and the discussion looked into how coops make a difference for workers and patients in the healthcare industry. Different sectors can also benefit from union-coop frameworks through the consideration of the needs of different stakeholders; workers, patients, families, facilities. There is an interest in further research regarding the Covid context and what differences happen when cooperatively owned and operated and when workers are unionized. Research to continue!






“In order to avoid the mistakes of the past and to reach a meaningful scale, actors in New York City must develop an ecosystem that supports the growth and development of cooperatives that must model the system on other nations that have developed ecosystems that allow cooperatives to flourish.” Rachael A. Tanner, Worker Owned Cooperatives and the Ecosystems that Support Them , 2013

On November 19th, the Community and Worker Ownership Project hosted its monthly meeting on cooperative solutions, with a focus on the public policy development needed to build a supportive environment for worker cooperatives in the state of New York. This month’s meeting continued to feature diverse representation from different sectors of our ecosystem; coops, unions, advocates, and educators. As we discussed in this meeting, the strengthening of a “cooperative ecosystem” is a set of features that when activated together enables a different kind of economy: one where cooperation and care for people in the economy is preferred. Here is a visual map of who was in attendance..

In this post you can read summaries of what was said in our meeting, follow hyperlinks of referenced material or view the video of the session. Also provided are time stamped moments in the footage to get you quickly to speakers being referenced.

Background: A study by the Democracy at Work Institute and the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives found that for the year 2018, the state of New York was home to approximately 58 worker cooperatives. A major contributor to this development comes from the support provided by the NYC Department of Small Business Services, which in 2015, with City Council support, launched the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative that helped establish 21 new worker cooperatives in NYC.

At this month’s meeting we heard from the groups and representatives for policy changes that can be advanced at each level of our government.  Gale Johnson and Sade Swift from the Advocacy Council of the NYC for Worker Coops (NYCNoWC ) shared the policy platform they are developing, (which can be seen here.) These speakers represent  worker-owners who are grounding their recommendations on the lived experiences of being small cooperative businesses in our city who want to be able to have a strong business from a foundation of local worker power. Their policy recommendations answer the question, “What do we need to make our businesses more effective?”

Roger Green, Senior Fellow for Public Policy at Community Economic Development Clinic at CUNY Law and previously a member of the New York State Assembly for over two decades began by saying, “public policy is usually motivated by a public problem.” Assemblyman Green learned that the interconnection of health and well being in communities would need interventions that connect localized solutions to address structural inequality, with supply chains, local jobs, and strong community economic development. He reminded us how we are  now looking at COVID 19 related shortages because of externalizing supply chains.  He highlighted the importance of developing entrepreneurial centers to incubate unionized worker cooperatives and spoke of the need of a law for the Right of First Refusal to give workers the opportunity to purchase the companies they work for before the business is opened for private equity purchase. Suggestions for state legislation that could encourage investments into and loans from an “Incumbent Workers Legacy Inheritance Fund.” It is important to quote Roger’s wise words.

“This recovery should not be governed by the forces of disaster capitalism but by the citizens.”

Kate LaTour, Director of Government Relations at the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International discussed the importance of building support for  cooperatives as a tool for addressing racial inequality and to promote “a recovery mechanism to the economic impacts of the pandemic.” She spoke of the importance of building on the successes of the HR 5236 Main Street Employee Ownership Act of 2018, championed by Senator Kristin Gillibrand and Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York. HR 5236 makes loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) more accessible for worker cooperatives and provides technical assistance for small businesses looking to transition into a worker cooperative model of business. She spoke about how important it is to have tax codes that can offer benefits for cooperative ownership and conversions. In fact, in certain regions in Italy and Spain, economic inequality is less as these policies for cooperative economics are strong.

Christine Curella, Deputy Director, Business Development & New Economy Initiatives, at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives referenced that change is not a top down strategy but works with a dynamism of bottom up and top down or inside/outside efforts where best advocacy for policy changes meets legislators and this is our work, to assure that pairing.  She shared updates on the 2019 Senate Bill 2176 proposal by New York State Senator Bailey as an example right before us of how legislation can uplift worker cooperatives and, if approved by Governor Cuomo, would enable converted worker owned businesses to access critical resources and support for business continuity and job preservation through the Economic Development Fund administered through the Empire State Economic Corporation.

She gave attention to a policy paradigm where some solutions are available “as of right”. Real estate, zoning, tax incentives, investment mechanisms. The example of a right of first refusal for workers to be able to stay by buying their company when the owner wants to leave, if as of right, there would be mechanisms in place that support the efforts on multiple levels.

She begged the question, as we face so much economic turmoil, what can we do that is as of right? We need to have rent and loan forgiveness…and we need to pay attention to how these rights can be accessed- for who, where and when? Our conversation moved to a significant moment of how we can support the legislation before the Governor this week. Following the meeting NYCNoWC crafted a letter and over 15 parties from this meeting signed on to support Senate Bill 2176 intended to make it easier for owners to sell to their workers and for workers to access funds to make the purchase.

Andy Morrison from the New Economy Project discussed the role of public banks in catalyzing support for worker cooperatives while also helping to build a more inclusive economy through the use of public dollars.

A full recording of the meeting can be accessed HERE.

Below are links from things mentioned in this Working Group Meeting.

 1/ Senate Bill 2184 aka Bailey Bill

  • This bill aims to push forward initiatives to strengthen the support for worker cooperatives in the State of New York. This bill calls for the establishment of a State Employee Ownership Center to oversee the provision of information and financial support for businesses seeking to succeed ownership to employees.
  • To learn about the Bailey bill, information can be found HERE

2/ Right of First Refusal and Right to Own

  • In the context of a business looking to sell off its ownership, Right of First Refusal would allow for former workers/employees “to purchase ownership stake in their workplaces before they’re closed or sold off” (HR Dive – Right of First Refusal)
  • To learn more about how this policy approach can help with worker ownership transitions, see the report by the Next Systems Project HERE

3/ New Economy Project and Public Banks

4/ Solidarity Economy

5/ Take a class of cooperative economics at our school!





This October the Cooperative Solutions Working Group at CWOP hosted our monthly meeting on cooperative solutions, with a targeted examination of cooperative models that support workers in the gig economy. These regular meetings are intended to bring together those who represent workers, industry and communities to collectively explore and learn how we may build community and worker power, in our businesses, our neighborhoods and our economic supply chains. Before the pandemic, it was projected that by this year our economy would reach 40% of the workers in the gig economy.[1] It looks like we have already surpassed that prediction and the burning question to labor and justice activists is: How do we expand the pathways for decent protection, representation and pay at work?

We heard from the following representatives about their stories, their proposals, and their innovation. Links are included as they are mentioned. At the end of this post is a link to the full recording of the meeting.

Neil Gladstein, former Director of Strategic Resources for the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), spoke about the Machinists’ strategy in Maine with the lobster industry where they formed a cooperative of independent Lobstermen and women, helped to purchase a production/distribution facility and expanded their membership by forming an affiliate local.

Ra Criscitiello, Deputy Director of Research at SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West shared the work they have done with a new form of a labor market intermediary called Cooperative Labor Contractors (CLC) and the legislative proposal of the Cooperative Economy Act. This is crafted to employ workers as worker-owners and address the market transformation after California’s AB5 went into effect in January of this year. With AB5, also referred to as the “gig worker bill,” large platform companies will be held accountable for misclassifying workers as independent contractors with no traditional employee protections and benefits.

Read more about it here with links to the formation, the proposed legislation and the system of CLC’s to be developed.

Anh – Thu Ngnuyen from Democracy at Work Institute with Radiate Consulting discussed the creation of Rapid Response Coops designed to support workers with skills to market who appreciate the chance to work as independent contractors. This work is especially beneficial for recipients of DACA to find employment opportunities post graduation. Her slideshow presentation can be viewed here:

 Ajoke Williams from the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives shared how the USFWC is designing Guilded, a worker-owned freelancer cooperative that would relieve the administrative burden put on independent contractors, while providing them access to health and unemployment benefits and financial assistance services along with the development of a payment guarantee fund. The initial pilot is designed for creatives; photographers, writers, graphic designers, artists, etc.

Erik Forman and Ken Lewis, The Drivers Coop, in a partnership with the Independent Drivers Guild of the International Association of Machinists are applying the cooperative ownership model to the ridesharing/app service structure that will help increase drivers’ earnings by 30% compared to the current driving service system in NYC. The vision includes the creation of an app for matching passengers with drivers and eventually to include transitioning the fleet to electrical vehicles. The coop’s pilot project is to provide rides to the home care workers in Cooperative Home Care Associates. This is a prime example of how coops can do business with other coops, as in line with Principle 6 of the 7 Cooperative Principles, (coops do business with other coops).

Rafael Espinal, President and CEO of The Freelancers Union shared how the burdens of independent contracting can be offset with a cooperative model for cooperative purchases of services and this follows much of what he have learned from speakers on this panel. He mentioned this idea was inspired  by Mondragon, the largest ecosystem of a cooperative economy under one large corporation in the Basque Region of Spain where their slogan is,”Humanity at Work”.

These meetings continue monthly as a learning and exploration exercise to build capacity, share knowledge and develop partnerships. If you would like to be added to the list please sign up HERE

A full recording of the October meeting can be found HERE (sans the first few minutes, oops).


This coming term we are offering a class that is in a series of courses about cooperative economics at our CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Link to this class is below.

Cooperative Management for a Changing World





This month the Community and Worker Ownership Project presented at the National Cooperative Business Association annual Impact Conference.

We are dedicated to promoting, through education and engagement a deepening awareness of cooperative models that raise workers’ collective power, knowledge and voice. We were delighted to be part of this conference to deepen the framework of diversity, inclusion and equity in worker education.

The NCBA is over 100 years old and has been advocating for cooperative entities and related legislation all these years. This year’s conference had the theme of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. CWOP facilitated a workshop on the diverse ways education is used to build and strengthen cooperatives. We featured several New Yorkers from the coop  movement here; Omar Friella with Green Worker Co-ops and Félix E. Gardón Rivera, from the NYC Network of Worker Coops. Other speakers came come from universities, unions and the cooperative ecosystem, all sharing how they work for Cooperative Principle #5; education, training and information.  Erin Hancock from St. Mary’s University; Stacy Sutton from University of Illinois, Chicago; Neil Gladstein from International Association of Machinists; Rebecca Bauen from Democracy at Work Institute and its School of Democratic Management.

Our own, Rebecca Lurie, framed the discussion to elucidate the many ways people learn, from on-the-job-training to professional development  to university settings. Most important to realize as the take-away is this: There is no wrong venue to teach cooperation, but many. Learning to strengthen cooperative businesses can happen in so many ways. We need to approach with awareness of best practices of adult education with principles of engagement and inclusion. You can see the full 75 minute workshop here:  NCBA workshop on Principle #5 And you can find the link to presenters’ resources here It is worth noting that this spring semester at SLU we will run a course intended to further the  competencies explored in the workshop in a Special Topics course, “Cooperative Management for Changing World”. If you have interest please reach out the your student advisor or Rebecca Lurie for more information.

Also at the NCBA conference:

CUNY Law’s own, Carmen Heurtas-Noble was inducted into the Coop Hall of Fame for 2020. You can see the video here! This was a great honor as the movement expands to recognize and better serve people of color and Carmen has been a champion for POC in the coop movement for nearly 20 years. This follows another CUNY professor, Jessica Gordon Nemhard, who was inducted in 2016 in recognition of her important book, “Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice”.

The School of Labor and Urban Studies was pleased to join the voices for worker education and power at this Cooperative Impact Conference.




In the spring, a month into the shutdown, CWOP’s founder, Rebecca Lurie, was invited to be on the Mayor’s Advisory Council for Labor and Workforce Development. While much of those council meetings were about the different ways workers all over our city were being most impacted and how they can be protected, we also discussed ways forward through this economic turmoil. Mayor de Blasio visited these meetings twice and each time, asking is all for innovation through these hard times, he explicitly referenced worker coops as a possibility for a transformative way forward. CWOP took up the baton and initiated (and reinvigorated) an ongoing discussion, intended to gather leaders who represent workers in different settings.

Our call to action is to cultivate, by industry sector and neighborhood, shared learning and practice with the mission to advance innovative possibilities for building economic resilience with cooperative solutions. Working together with regular monthly meetings we can apply cooperative principles to problems our workers, communities and businesses face to apply cooperative principles to problems they are most close to. Together we will explore sustainable solutions with industry cooperatives and company conversions that can support business continuity, resilience and succession planning.

We have had three meetings, July, August and September. They are each part learning and part talking.

July we heard from SEIU1199, Consortium for Worker Education, UFCW1500, NYC Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection, the Mayor’s Office on Workforce Development, NYC Network of Worker Coops, Cooperative Home Care Associates to initiate the space and welcome common and shared interests.

August included learning about the Trust for Workers in Washington State, where 40,000 homecare workers will benefit from this cooperative solution. Home Care Workers Trust – presentation here

We heard from

From the NYC Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection, we heard briefly about their research and recommendations for Municipal Policies for Community Wealth Building, NYC DCWP 

September meeting we heard from:

  • Andrea Armeni from Transform Finance,
  • Brendan Martin, Ghislain Guiebo and Scott Trumbell from The Working World,
  • Mark Winston-Griffith, Bianca Bockman and Ashleigh Eubanks with the Central Brooklyn Food Democracy Project,
  • Rob Newell, Paul Santarpis and Aidan Mohan from the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1500
  • Roger Green with Citizen Share Brooklyn and the Campaign to Transform Interfaith.

Here is the  Cooperative Solutions Working Group Sept 24, 2020 meeting recording

The conversation linked together broad views of financing models and a local view of how Mutual Aid and systems thinking are creating a strategy for a food and justice based economic ecosystem in Brooklyn.

The ideas in these meetings are shared with intent to prime our collective hive-minds for innovation with a clear lens for equity and economic justice. The cooperative principles include Concern for Community. Every pitched idea brings this concern to the fore, looking for pathways to worker empowerment and community wealth. The economy is ours to rebuild!

To stay up to date with future meetings , we invite you to sign up for the CWOP mailing list HERE and noting that you want to be invited to these working group meetings. We truly appreciate your support. If you have any questions about the meeting or about the Community and Worker Ownership Project at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies  and this NYC Cooperative Solutions Working Group, feel free to contact us at our project’s shared email,





We are thrilled  to announce the Community & Worker Ownership Project (CWOP) has a new intern that will be working with us on communications and research. 

Lesly Calle has joined our team! She is a fourth-year Macaulay Honors student at the City College of New York pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Economics. 

For the summer term, she worked with the World Resources Institute under the Climate team, where she performed research on carbon pricing initiatives and learned of the disproportionate impacts carbon emissions have on low-income communities and communities of color. Lesly was part of the inaugural class of Climate Policy Fellows at the Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership in the Fall semester of 2019. As a fellow, she worked with a team to develop a policy brief on single-use plastic mitigation and its effects on climate change. 

For the 2020-2021 academic year, Lesly was selected for the Edward I. Koch Fellowship in Public Service at CCNY, which helped her develop a partnership with CWOP this semester to help us develop and enhance our communications strategy. In the coming months, she will help to promote the understanding of cooperatives and economic democracy as part of the solution for our current economic injustices. 

Lesly is interested in social justice, economic inequality, and environmental policy and is looking to understand how economics can serve as a bridge for equality. Through this internship, she hopes to learn of the role cooperative economies play in promoting economic justice and building community wealth both locally and globally. To further her understanding in this topic, she is taking a class on Economic Democracy at the School for Labor and Urban Studies taught by professor Michael Menser. 

Lesly was born and raised in NYC and is a first generation college student.