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COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS WORKING GROUP MEETING – FEBRUARY 2021

 

 

 

“Some of you have heard my story about why I think coops make sense, because they make sense. If you are a part of something, you are going to work harder for it. Full stop.” – – Senator Jamaal Bailey

 

For the February meeting of our Working Group of the Community and Worker Ownership Project we had the pleasure of hosting NY State Senator Jamaal Bailey and Hyungsik Eum, Strategy and Statistics Coordinator at the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). Each spoke about enabling legislation through laws and policies to strengthen a cooperative economy. We thank Senator Bailey, graduate of CUNY School of Law, for being a proponent of worker cooperatives as a means of building community wealth right from the start of his term. We celebrate his ongoing support through legislation such as ​S6794​ in 2017 for training and education and currently, ​S3313​, to establish a state employee ownership center at a public university. He shared that S3313 had just passed out of the Senate Sub-committee that very afternoon! ​​You can see Senator Bailey share this here​.

We also thank​ Hyungsik for bringing a global perspective on worker and social cooperatives and for providing guidelines for safe and beneficial employment standards for members in worker cooperatives. Hyungsik started the discussion with an overview of the International Cooperative Alliance​ and its mission. The ICA currently stands as one of the largest NGOs in the world, representing ​1 billion cooperative members​. At the core of its mission is to foster the growth and development of cooperatives.​ His presentation introduced us to ​a ​report by CECOP​ that frames worker cooperatives as a response to Non Standard Employment, (think the gig economy as well as companies with worker-ownership) that often creates challenges for workers in regards to the security of their employment, earnings, and representation. An important point in the discussion addressed the new trend of social cooperatives emerging in Europe, which ​Hyungsik defined as performing work for the community or broader society. To engage in social and public service work, social cooperatives often operate under a multi-stakeholder governance structure that allows for the interaction of different members from different interests, for a broad shared purpose. (Think community members, worker-owners of the local businesses, tenants and homeowners all in on a Community Land Trust.)

Hyungsik Eum and Rebecca Lurie 3 minutes excerpt on the Evolution of Social Cooperatives & Stewardship

Hyungsik also outlined internationally recognized standards for defining cooperatives to ensure that the status of worker-ownership does not jeopardize hard-fought worker protections. A full set of guidelines produced by the International Labor Office (ILO) in 2018 can be found HERE​ and a summary of those guidelines can be found in the PowerPoint used during this meeting ​HERE​. Below are seven standards of favorable conditions for cooperatives and enabling legislation, as Senator Bailey and UFCW President Rob Newell each suggested, so we can be sure there are standards in place so that cooperatives are not used as a loophole for worker exploitation.

Ra Criscitiello, a legislative director with SEIU-UHW, offered the working group an explanation on the ways to look at employment status in this​ 2 minute clip. The discussion continued where Senator Bailey got to hear ideas about how to further support worker cooperatives in the state. Contributions and questions came from all the sectors in the (z)room such as unions, cooperative businesses, cooperative developers, academics, government agencies, lawyers, workplace and community development representatives. He started off by crediting CUNY and ​Carmen Huertas-Noble​, (Coop Hall of Fame Inductee 2020)and professor of ​CUNY Law at the Community Economic Development Clinic​ for introducing him to the importance of worker cooperatives towards economic and racial justice. Senator Bailey spoke of the importance of the initiatives in NYC for cooperatives, including the new Owner to Owners Hotline​ under the campaign ​Employee Ownership NYC​ as steps in the right direction to provide support for businesses and workers who endeavor to build community wealth. The collaboration and advocacy work from grassroots organizations as well as community members was centered as essential to the development of any legislation that could be proposed and he invited our collective input.

Tamara Shapiro of the ​New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives ​ raised the question of how the current legislation being passed can support both those businesses looking to convert to cooperatives as well as startups and the worker cooperatives incorporated as LLCs. The case for large worker cooperatives was raised by Robert Newell from UFCW Local 1500,referencing the challenges in the supermarket sector, where some of the largest employers are members of purchasing cooperatives with a complex set of interests and competing demands to the unionized workers. If these grocery stores were to become worker-owners, President Newell asked, how can the workers exercise power and influence in the purchasing cooperative? This led us back to discuss the idea of multi-stakeholder cooperatives as a possible solution.

To learn of the challenges of how people are employed by their business, remain  accountable to their members and to the future generations as a value of mutualism watch the clip here on ​Multi-stakeholder Cooperatives and Social Cooperatives​.

David Hammer from the ICA Group added that a strong case can be made that employee ownership creates a savings opportunity for the state rather than a cost. When considering the number of business owners looking to retire without clear succession plans, employee ownership strategy for the state with the potential of saving jobs can reduce the risk of unemployment for those workers. Shaywal Amin, from 1199SEIU, stressed the importance of the Right to First Refusal within the current legislation as a measure of ensuring the workers of businesses can help with healthy transitions to employee ownership before a company is sold off or closed down. Deborah Olson, lawyer in unions and cooperatives for years, shared her guidance for Right of First Refusal language in legislation to support worker cooperatives in this ​1 minute clip​.

Senator Bailey ended with a shoutout to Omar Freilla from the Green Worker Cooperatives, who is currently serving on the Just Transition Working Group for the ​Climate Action Council of NY. As a member of this working group, Omar is working to uplift the importance of worker cooperatives as a vehicle for building community wealth while building for resiliency, and moving away from a segregated workforce in the green economy.

 

“​A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise​.​ Those needs and aspirations might be related to the consumption and usage of goods and services (consumer cooperatives, financial service cooperatives, insurance cooperatives, housing cooperatives), production activities (producer cooperatives in agriculture, fishery and retail), as well as work and employment (worker cooperatives). Sometimes, cooperatives have been established to respond to the unmet needs of the local community, by people who want to provide a response to these needs by gathering workers and service beneficiaries, as well as other stakeholders (social cooperatives).” -excerpt from ​CECOP, 2019, All for One. Response of worker-owned cooperatives to non-standard employment, Brussels.

COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS WORKING GROUP – JANUARY 2021

 

 

 

“Toni Bambara defines freedom as being “totally unavailable for servitude” — underscoring the importance of self-possession, self -determination, and importantly– ownership over one’s material conditions to realize freedom.”

– Sam Jung,  NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives

The Community and Worker Ownership Project started off its first meeting of the New Year with a focus on Employee Ownership NYC, an initiative aimed at providing ownership transition consultation and technical assistance to businesses in the city. We were joined by representatives from Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson’s office as well as organizations working to support businesses with the transition to worker ownership that include the Democracy at Work Institute, The Working World, ICA Group and the Business Outreach Center Network. This discussion offered insight for the working group on the objectives, strategies, and tools that they can take back to their union, industries, businesses, or workers they represent to the campaign for worker ownership as a means to strengthen our economic recovery for communities and the city. The working group participated in small breakout room sessions to discuss views on the opportunities and challenges for supporting employee ownership in NYC and to exchange ideas on how to support this initiative through their day to day work. A summary of the discussions can be found below. The full recording of the working group meeting can be found here along with specific time stamped sections embedded when referenced below.

Employee Ownership NYC

 This municipal initiative stands as one of the nation’s largest in providing support for employee ownership and conversions through educational resources and technical assistance for businesses. At the core of this initiative is to help businesses in the development of sustainable business models and to provide an opportunity for workers to keep their jobs and build community wealth. Sam Jung from the NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives explained the value of employee ownership in addressing the racial disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the onset of COVID-19 and a deepening economic recession, we have witnessed a disproportionate number of black and minority-owned business shutdowns. This has spurred initiatives like the Employee Ownership NYC to help sustain businesses, foster community self-determination, retain jobs in communities, promote business sustainability, build democratic workplace environments, aid in asset generation for communities of color, and addressing the racial wealth gap in the city for the future.

 Owner to Owners

 Key to the Employee Ownership NYC initiative is the development of Owners to Owners, a rapid response hotline that helps business owners envision employee ownership as an option. The goal of Owner to Owners is to position employee ownership as an equitable economic recovery strategy and helps to bring employee ownership into the mainstream economic development and business development landscape. Owner to Owners builds on the work already being done to advance support for retiring businesses in the city.

Quincy Ely-Cate and Nancy Carin from the Business Outreach Center Network spoke of the interest of business owners in selling to workers. Having conversations with businesses has allowed the BOC Network to understand the interest of business owners in learning about employee ownership and to witness how compelling it is for business owners to consider the options available for their business well into the future. Business owners face many challenges when selling their businesses in the market and employee ownership offers them the opportunity to preserve the legacy of their business while also providing a viable path post owner retirement.

Anh-Thu Nguyen, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Democracy at Work Institute spoke of the plan to expand employee ownership in NYC and of the role the Owner to Owners hotline plays in helping businesses determine if employee ownership is the right fit. With approximately 80% of business owners in NYC not having a clear succession plan, many business owners resort to selling their business or face closure. To preserve the legacy of a business and to prevent unnecessary closures in communities, Owner to Owners represents an opportunity to raise awareness about employee ownership while also helping to equip trusted community, union, and business leaders with the tools to refer businesses.

Break Out Room Discussions

Where do you see opportunities to support this work?

Employee ownership can improve workplace environments in the restaurant industry, healthcare industry, fashion industry, rideshare work, and in the supermarket and food production sectors. Seon Mi Kim, Associate Professor of Social Work at Ramapo College, stated that employee ownership presents us with the opportunity to bridge social work, activism, and economic empowerment, something which has become an imperative under the COVID-19 pandemic. The service industry is among the hardest hit as a result of COVID-19, and with many restaurant businesses facing financial instability there is a need for policy to support ownership conversions through planned recovery efforts. Likewise, the garment industry is undergoing a steady decline in terms of skilled talent and local sourcing. Conversion opportunities for owners close to retirement are promising for business continuity in the fashion industry. There is also an opportunity for Owner to Owners in connecting with union movements to increase the impact of employee ownership in the city. Finally, there is opportunity to build support within the immigrant community in the city, who are often left out of the conversations around worker protections in the workplace.

Where do you see challenges in supporting this work?

One of the challenges discussed involves expanding employee ownership into industries with little to no cooperative business structures. Leah Rambo, Training Director for Sheet Metal Local 28, explained that this model does not exist yet within industrial construction and union industrial work. Michael Partis, Executive Director of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative, added there is a need to incorporate approaches for  businesses that are family based or multigenerational. Aside from the reach of employee ownership, participants raised the concern over the lack of cooperative business education in K-12 school curriculums. As an economics major at the City College of New York, Lesly Calle believes in the value of incorporating solidarity economics, cooperative business models, and workplace democracy for social science curriculums. In doing so, more people would understand the role of cooperatives in their community. Marketing for cooperative businesses was another important talking point in this discussion. While companies such as Uber and Lyft have the capital flexibility to invest in marketing, worker cooperatives need support in making their businesses known.

Who in your industry can help move this forward?

To help employee ownership take off, it will take the collaboration of organizations already paving the way for this kind of business model and the support of communities. Key to this movement are also universities, such as the City University of New York, union representatives, and guidance from the legal sector. Tessa Maffucci from the Pratt Institute discussed the role of sector based organizations such as the New York Fashion Workforce Coalition helping employee ownership take off.

What do you need to support this work that you do not have?

To support employee ownership, Rob Newell, President of UFCW Local 1500 suggested the development of incentives to encourage business conversions to employee ownership rather than closing upon owner retirement. Policy and legislative support would amplify the efforts of organizations, workers, and community leaders supporting worker ownership. The consensus was also on the need for an open minded approach to cooperative business models to get more business owners and workers on board with transitioning to employee ownership.

What more do you need to know to support this work?

Case studies on the benefits and impacts of employee ownership can help to push this initiative forward, especially now given the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses and workers. This is especially important for gaining the support of local policy leaders for employee ownership as a mechanism for creating lasting positive impacts for the communities they serve. The working group also agreed on the power of coming together to discuss initiatives such as Employee Ownership NYC. Building connection opportunities to exchange knowledge and build relationships holds significant value for the working group, which has been a priority for and facilitated by Rebecca Lurie from the Community and Worker Ownership Project. Members of the working group expressed appreciation for the opportunity created by CWOP and the initiation of the Mayor’s Advisory Council to engage in these meaningful conversations on cooperative solutions that matter for our city’s economy, communities, businesses and workers.

Always stay tuned for updates on our meetings and discussion. Through June 2021 our Cooperative Solutions Working Group will be the fourth Wednesday of the month from 5:00-7:00. Please contact us at CWOP@slu.cuny.edu for details.

 

 

COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS WORKING GROUP – DECEMBER 2020 UPDATE

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?

Union-coops: 

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.

Healthcare:

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!

 

 

 

 

COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS WORKING GROUP — UPDATE

“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!

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US FOR FURTHER INFO — CWOP@SLU.CUNY.EDU

 

 

NYC COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS WORKING GROUP – UPDATE

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).

NOTE FOR FUTURE EDUCATION:

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

 

[1] https://www.ilo.org/washington/WCMS_642303/lang–en/index.htm