g. Worker Coops & the Solidarity Economy

A key goal of a community-based economic development department should be supporting community-based economic development solutions and municipal policies to support them. Some examples of solidarity economy enterprises include:

1.   Create a Worker Cooperative Technical Assistance Center

A TA Center could provide educational materials, trainings and workshops on cooperatives along with LLCs, ESOPs, etc. Currently, examples exist in Ohio and Vermont (though they used to exist in other states). For example, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center played a lead role in the development of the Evergreen cooperatives, “the Cleveland model.” A closer example would be the CA Center for Cooperative Development at UC Davis. This center could also support new small scale enterprises supported by existing local organizations such as MAF, WISE, the Day Labor Program, and WAGES. It could also promote Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) as legal way for immigrants to own businesses. Over time, however, such an institution could develop R&D and new business development functions, much like the institutions in Mondragon or among the lega in Emilia-Romagna, perhaps tied to other City enterprise projects.

2.   Create a Cooperative Loan Fund

Create a targeted loan pool, leveraging the resources of the Credit Union of San Francisco, to support development and expansion of worker coops.

3.   Create a Cooperative Business Incubator

In San Francisco, the nonprofit Renaissance Enterprise provides business incubator space at a small scale; at a larger industrial scale, Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center in New York) provides similar facilities.

4.   Support plant buyouts by workers

The City would support responses that propose alternatives to plant closings and save jobs, for example, technical assistance for feasibility studies on worker buyouts of the troubled businesses. The Early Warning System / Chicago model is championed by the Center for Labor and Community Research.

5.   Develop Cooperative procurement policies

City institutions  (hospitals, community colleges) should commit to purchasing from worker cooperatives. This is the Cleveland model that has supported the development of the Evergreen coops.

6.   Explore development of Community-owned Corporations

The best known of these is probably the Market Creek Plaza in San Diego. Although that particular project was heavily subsidized by foundations, and resulted in a shopping center as the economic development engine, the basic model, with community ownership shares, could be held up as a model if we wanted to promote other forms of ownership, especially for vacant sites (urban agriculture) or underutilized industrial buildings (Back Streets businesses).


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