Community Wealth Blog
At the end of 2012, the Cuban government approved a law that permitted for the first time the formation of non-agricultural co-ops. Passed at the end of the United Nations-designated International Year of Cooperatives, the new Cuban legislation permitted, as the New York Times reported at the time, “workers to collectively open new businesses or take over existing state-run businesses in construction, transportation and other industries.” As of July 2014, 257 new co-op businesses have launched as a result of this legislation.
Our infographic highlights the benefits and impact of cooperatives.
Earlier this month, the small city of Somerset, Kentucky drew national attention when it opened a municipally-owned and -operated fuel center in an effort to drive down gas prices for local residents. As a result of its proximity to Lake Cumberland, a popular tourist destination, the city of 11,000 residents has long struggled with high fuel prices—especially during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Hilary Abell, author of our new report Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale, and Kali Akuno of The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, discuss ways in which cooperative development can support social justice and economic security.
Though they end up as owners and decision-makers, workers in low-income communities often don't start off doing all the work of developing and growing a worker-owned cooperative themselves. This is even true for the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, the world’s single largest worker cooperative network and a leading source of inspiration for efforts to build worker cooperatives to scale in the United States.
Indian Country is the site of some exciting new work taking shape in social enterprise and employee ownership. Five Native American projects are being developed as part of an initiative managed by The Democracy Collaborative and funded by the Northwest Area Foundation, known as the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building.
Seattle‘s minimum wage ordinance is one step toward lessening inequality and poverty compounded by low-wage work. But there are still many challenges ahead. Cooperative development is one tool in the community wealth building strategy toolbox that can help lift low-wage workers, and especially women, out of poverty.
The past few weeks have seen a flurry of impressive activity at the level of city government, all around policies designed to build community wealth and encourage the growth of cooperative local economies. It's encouraging to see that the work of grassroots developers, local foundations, community activists, and field builders (like ourselves here at the Democracy Collaborative) is beginning to gain a foothold in the world of municipal policy.
Beloved for its charming landscapes and fresh lobster, the rural community of Deer Isle, Maine is now gaining attention in the cooperative world. When Verne and Sandra Seile, proprietors of Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley, decided to retire last year, they sold their businesses to their employees. With 62 new worker-owners, Island Employee Cooperative, Inc. (IEC) is now the twelfth largest worker cooperative in the nation.
Today, corporate profits are at an all-time high and employee wages are at their lowest ever as a percent of GDP. Worker cooperatives embody the hope that we can reverse the downward spiral in wage stagnation, wealth distribution, and concentration of ownership to build an economy that truly serves people and communities. But what will it really take to create a more cooperative economy?
The broad appeal of the ‘Cleveland Model’ and of community wealth building in general is becoming evident in a growing number of communities around the country, and—increasingly—overseas as well.