Category Archives: CWOP

Co-op Impact Conference – October 2021


Scholarship available: deadline September 8th

We are excited to share news about an opportunity being offered by the Cooperative Development Foundation. The CDF developed the New Cooperator Scholarship program to provide individuals interested in learning about cooperatives with the opportunity to attend the 2021 Cooperative IMPACT Conference hosted by NCBA CLUSA. For more information on the NCBA CLUSA, click HERE.

The scholarship will cover the following:

If you are new to a career in cooperatives or would like to learn about cooperatives in general, this is a great learning opportunity for you! To learn more about the scholarship and to access the application, visit the website linked HERE.

The deadline for the application is September 8th!

Conference runs October 4-8 with multiple events and costs $75 for members and $100 for non-members





“It doesn’t matter what work you do, you’re entitled to live a decent life and that is the cooperative movement, that is the labor movement, that is the social justice movement. We are in our separate lanes but I think we all need to understand that the goal is the same for all of us and to the extent, we can work together, we should.” 

– Arthur Cheliotes, President Emeritus of Local 1180


Our May meeting of the Cooperative Solutions Working group was our last meeting for the series. After over eleven meetings where we have been listening, questioning, and sharing, we have compiled a framework that we presented at this meeting. Bernadette King Fitzsimons delivered the slide deck, “A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions” (see it HERE). Rebecca and Bernadette are using this frame to develop a written paper to record key learnings about the union-led advancement of worker ownership. To that end, they have researched cases of unions investing in the creation of cooperatives, and have identified six tools for union-led cooperative creation: innovative organizing; investment of union staff & resources; use of physical spaces and property; training expertise and training funds; access to capital and relationships with financial institutions; and collective bargaining agreements and the contract negotiations process. They gave a brief explanation with examples of how each of these resources can be and have been used by unions to include worker ownership as a strategy to build worker power. The presentation drew from some of the stories we have heard presented during the year in this working group: 

  • Machinist Union and the Maine Lobstering Union (Lobster 207)
  • SEIU 1199 and Cooperative Home Care Associates
  • SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West and the AlliedUp Cooperative
  • UE Local 1110, and the New Era Windows Cooperative,
  • UFCW Local 1000 & the Homeland Supermarkets ESOP

We also heard from Sadé Swift, Advocacy Council Coordinator at the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives.. Sadé presented on the launch of NYC’s Future is Cooperative Policy Platform by NYC-NOWC, which focuses on five key policy areas to propel worker cooperatives in the city summarized below.

A key point made throughout the presentation is on the barriers worker cooperatives face in the business certification process through the Women and Minority Business Enterprise (W/MBE). The City Procurement policy area advocates for the development of a separate business certification process for worker cooperatives that would eliminate the barriers to certification. Increasing representation and understanding of worker cooperatives in the procurement practice of city government is necessary to build a supportive environment for worker cooperatives to thrive. Sadé also referenced the importance of the Education and Technical Assistance policy area in supporting and developing the sustainability of worker cooperatives in NYC. Through funding and expanded access to worker cooperative education, NYC-NOWC is working to integrate frameworks of the solidarity economy into k-12 curriculums, which would create a transformative pathway for young children’s future. Supporting cooperatives through education programs is also an important component of this policy area to ensure worker-owners themselves learn about their workplace and their evolving cooperative sector. 

What became clear through these two presentations, as well as the full year of engagement we have shared, is that unions and cooperatives can blend for expanded power for workers and the working class. Unions have much capacity to influence, organize and build strategies for worker power and the network of cooperatives is a willing partner to expand that power further, with deep democracy, rooted in economic needs and innovations. Our future work together will joyfully allow for the unions who want to enter the innovative spaces of worker ownership with the cooperative sector to pair with the power and passion of unions to move stronger together. 

You can see the full last session here and we feature Aly Waddy, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 1500 for her summation of the session HERE   






“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.





“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 for details.




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!