Tag Archives: cwop

Employees at REI Co-op move to unionize!

The Community and Worker Ownership Project stands with workers and their chosen representation to exercise their power at work. We need unions to help us be the best we can be as business pressures can otherwise push workers’ safety and dignity to the margins. Unions protect workers’ interests and raise the floor for workers and businesses in adjacent industries and geographies. 

The Union Co-op Council of the US Federation of Worker Coops has issued  this statement.


Co-Ops And Labor Unions Work Hand In Hand: USFWC Supports REI Workers’ Right To Unionize

Posted on January 25, 2022

The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives celebrates the workers at the REI co-op location in New York City who have announced their intention to form a union with the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). We strongly urge REI Co-op, and all other companies who are proudly part of the cooperative movement, to embrace their workers’ right to representation in a union, and recognize that unions play a key role in a strong cooperative ecosystem.

To that end, the USFWC has dedicated time and resources to building up this relationship for more than a decade through its Union Co-ops Council, a space focused on building worker power in coordination with organized labor. As the Council noted in their statement from 2021, the cooperative movement and the trade union movement both have deep roots in liberation struggles for economic independence. Labor unions and cooperatives are not an “either/or” option of organization but work together in solidarity to achieve similar goals. Worker power and self-determination, be it through worker co-ops, labor unions, or both together, are key to the better world we hope to build.

Rather than “getting between the co-op and the members,” unions can strengthen the relationship between workers and owners in a consumer co-op. Just as the consumer members join in collective action through a consumer cooperative to have a meaningful voice in the marketplace, workers join in collective action through a labor union to have a meaningful voice in the workplace. We encourage consumer members to engage the principle of solidarity with the workers who create the value of the cooperative.  

The Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions, developed by Union Co-ops Council member Rebecca Lurie and Bernadette King Fitzsimmons, delves into some of the incredible success stories of cooperatives and unions coming together to help workers and businesses flourish across the United States. 

Whether a consumer co-op like REI or a worker co-op in our membership, unions offer accountability and stability for workers in cooperatives, with representation and voice in the broader market of the industry. Workers know what they need to live well and do their jobs well.  From small shops to big name cooperatives to corporations, the USFWC proudly stands in solidarity and cooperation with workers organizing across the globe.



CWOP releases “A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions”

A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions 11/2/21

As many readers of this blog know, as COVID-19 took hold in New York City, I was tapped to join the Labor and Workforce Development Sector Advisory Council convened by the City tasked to communicate broadly the day-to-day emergency management of the pandemic and its impacts on working people. This Advisory Council also expressed interest in developing strategies towards economic equity and wealth-building. We understood, it was not only a health crisis, but a racial awakening and a clear exposure of economic inequality. With this in mind, cooperatives and worker-ownership were raised as a strategy with the potential to transform aspects of New York City’s economy.

Our Council was made up of leaders from organized labor, workforce development organizations, nonprofits, and academic institutions.  CWOP took the energy of the moment and with the sign-on of eighteen participants of this Council established the year-long the Cooperatives Solutions Working Group. CWOP had previously convened several groupings of labor and workforce professionals. Working with the NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives and Union Co-ops Council of the US Federation of Worker Coops, we facilitated workshops and presentations on unions and co-ops. In February of 2020, in partnership with the Consortium for Worker Education, we hosted a visit with representatives from Mondragon, Spain, to discuss with labor and workforce development leaders how cooperative ecosystem building could help our local economy. Hearing how this strategy was applied in the Basque Region over 50 years ago and how Mondragon coops work today, interest was piqued. But this was only days before our city’s shut down.

The Cooperative Solutions Working Group met monthly, providing an open space for learning, discussion, and rich dialogue. Over the year, we built a dynamic environment for those interested in NYC’s equitable economic recovery to discuss themes of worker power, worker ownership, and collaboration for a just economy. We drew a wide assembly of labor leaders, organizers, cooperative developers, cooperative members, labor lawyers, City officials, and more to share their stories honestly, bringing forward lived experiences and challenges faced. [see Figure 1]. More than 200 people attended the (twelve) monthly meetings, with over 60 being regular attendees. Many sessions were reported on in this Blog.

​​Figure 1. Cooperative Solutions Working Group Participant Characteristics



“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), the largest union co-op in the nation, operating from the South Bronx, NYC.

As this phase of the working group came to a close in the summer of 2021, we committed to share key lessons on ways labor unions are interacting with cooperative businesses to expand worker power through ownership and democratic governance. As we listened, we saw that there are consistent ways and means that unions were collaborating with economic changes and the development of cooperative economies. This paper documents some of the lessons learned through case studies we heard in our Working Group, and offers a toolkit for those interested in broadening strategies for owning and controlling places of work. Our theory of change is to share  stories from others and then replicate what works, what can be done elsewhere and to welcome an attitude of “more of that!” In this way we aim to expand the power and influence of the union movement towards the cooperative ecosystem of our next economy.

Tools we identify are:

  1. openness to innovative organizing
  2. investment of union staff and professional expertise
  3. use of union spaces
  4. training funds and educational expertise
  5. capital access and relationships with financial institutions.
  6. negotiation process and a collective bargaining agreement
  7. sectoral analysis and legislative organizing

Our case studies feature:

  • Cooperative Home Care Associates / 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
  • Lobster 207 / IAM District 4
  • New Era Windows / UE Local 1110 / The Working World
  • People’s Choice Communications Cooperative
  • Homeland / UFCW Local 1000
  • LVN Cooperative / AlliedUP Cooperative / SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
  • Coop Cincy / Coop Dayton and multiple unions in their ecosystem


Read the full report here:

A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions 11/2/21

Sofia Arana Shares Economic Democracy Lessons From Basque Country

By Rebecca Lurie

Last week, CWOP hosted a conversation with Sofia Arana from the Basque Country. She shared a qualitative comparison of US tax codes and those of the Basque region in Spain as ways and reasons we have such difficult uptake of just and equitable economic development in the US. Her chapter in the book The Basque Tax System, produced by The Center for Basque Studies and the University of Nevada, Reno, makes a point of thanking SLU as the host of her studies and research as she honors the ancient ways of the Basque Economic Agreement.  The information she shared offered a perspective we can use when trying to understand and advocate for policies and taxation that encourages stronger communities and better businesses. Her chapter offers insights gained living in her region of the world through  “The impact of the Basque Economic Agreement on Community Economic Development”.

Guests included scholars from Brooklyn College, the Graduate Center and Rutgers University, activists from the NYC cooperative community and representatives from the Deputy Mayor’s Office on Strategic Innovations.

Many thanks to Sofia for generating such a fruitful discussion and opportunity for a shared thinking. More to come!

Economic Democracy on Laura Flanders Show

Last month, SLU hosted Our Economy!, a conference where leaders in community, labor and the economic democracy movement gathered to vision for an economy that can work for everyone. The most recent episode of the Laura Flanders Show covers some of the conversations that took place at the conference, and which have been happening in SLU’s Community and Worker Ownership Project and beyond. Check it out here:

via Laura Flanders Show:

Our city’s economy – what is it for? New York’s has been very good at piling up profits and building tall buildings. But all that private profit has come at a cost to public services and public trust. Could it be different? On this week’s show, we talk about the new conversations that are happening between labor unions and community members. Between residents, workers, and employers about how everyone’s economy can move forward. 

Updates from the Community and Worker Ownership Project

April was a very exciting month for the Community and Worker Ownership Project at SLU. We hosted the new school’s first faculty conference; “Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change,” giving us the opportunity to gather several hundred people to have shared conversations about what would it take to take to scale practice for economic democracy. What policies should we be promoting? What should we be teaching? How are we doing it?

Later in the month, CWOP coordinator Rebecca Lurie visited Wellspring Cooperatives, a cooperative development organization in Springfield, Massachusetts that works closely with organized labor and U. Mass at Amherst. While there, Rebecca spoke at the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council and the Western Mass Affiliate Labor Federation as part of their Annual Training Conference and Workers Memorial Day Ceremony. She talked about unions and coops and where they overlap with vision and mission for worker dignity, offering expanded approaches with the notion of worker and community ownership and control. Continue reading Updates from the Community and Worker Ownership Project

Public Bank NYC Launches Campaign on Laura Flanders Show

The Public Bank NYC Coalition believes public money should work “for the public good, not private gain.” To that end, it advocates for a public bank that can: 

support vital sectors of our local economy and divest from banks that are financing destructive corporate interests, including speculative real estate, private prison and immigrant detention companies, the global arms trade and the fossil fuel industry.

The Laura Flanders Show just released a video profile featuring Deyanira del Río from the New Economy Project, Linda Levy of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and Enlace’s Cindy Martinez, highlighting the need for a bank and what it aims to do. Check it out!