Jackson Rising conference brings together social justice and cooperative activists
While the words “co-op” and “civil rights” do not commonly appear in the same sentence, with more than 300 cooperative and social justice activists gathered in Jackson, Mississippi, last weekend, the question was hard to avoid.
One of three resident-owned communities (ROCs) in the Tacoma area, Elmwood is a 41-site mobile home park. Concerned about the security of the land under their homes, Elmwood’s residents formed a cooperative in 2015, which enabled them to collectively purchase the land and infrastructure, and thus guarantee the park’s long-term affordability.
Established in 1940 by a group of telephone workers, Sound Credit Union has grown into a financial institution with $1.42 billion in assets, 115,000 members, and 24 branches across northwest Washington. In 2016, the credit union made donations to 120 nonprofits and awarded $120,000 in scholarships to area students. It also provides its employees with an annual paid day off if they choose to volunteer in the community.
Founded in 1955 to serve airmen stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Harborstone Credit Union now has $1.2 billion in total assets, nearly 79,200 members, and 15 branches located across King, Pierce, and Thurston counties. To support its members, Harborstone offers a range of programs including budget, student loan, debt, bankruptcy, and homeownership coaching, and a range of on-line courses.
Recognizing the need for an affordable urban grocery that could provide local, organic, and natural food, a group of Tacoma residents came together in 2006, laying the roots of what would open in 2011 as the Tacoma Food Co-op. In 2015, the Tacoma Food Co-op merged with Seattle’s Central Co-op, creating a stronger, regional entity with over 15,000 members. Structured as a solidarity cooperative, Central Co-op’s ownership—including equity investment, dividend distributions, and Board representation—is shared 50/50 between Central Co-op’s workers and consumers. Demonstrating its commitment to the local economy, a 2017 analysis found that Central Co-op returns more than 52 percent of its revenue back to the local economy, a proportion well above the average U.S. cooperative grocery (36 percent) and conventional grocery chains (23 percent). In early 2018, Central Co-op will open a new Tacoma store in the West End neighborhood.
Nishani Frazier Fellow at the Democracy Collaborative writes for Truth Out about the link between the return of Black Political Power and Cleveland model of community wealth building:
The ascent of these new mayors is an opportunity to build real solutions for those left behind by decades of disinvestment and dispossession. Yet radical intentions and hard-hitting rhetoric is not enough to produce radical answers to economic problems. Black mayors must actively incorporate history and make it an essential part of this project to study the successes and failures of a previous generation. Historian Leonard Moore noted that Cleveland's Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor of a major urban city, entered politics to wreak havoc on this "corrupt machine," or rather the political structures that hindered black attainment of power in Cleveland and throughout the United States. However, he quickly learned he "didn't know where the buttons were." Not long into his tenure, Stokes not only found the buttons but began pushing them when he launched Cleveland NOW! The project combined private, state, federal, philanthropic and individual funding into a proposed $1.5 billion plan for housing improvement, employment, urban renewal, youth services and economic revitalization.
Published by the Democracy at Work Institute, this new report discusses the accomplishments of the first year of the Workers to Owners Collaborative, launched in 2016 to catalyze business conversions to cooperative ownership. Participating organizations collectively created 215 opportunities for new worker-owners and facilitated the transfer of over $8 million in business assets from retiring owners to employees.
Founded in 1935 to serve people employed by the newspaper industry, One Detroit Credit Union now aims to provide credible, fair, and reasonably priced financial products and services to all Detroit residents overlooked by the mainstream banking system. The credit union currently has about 12,000 members and assets over $37 million.
Founded in 1949 by a small group of Veterans Affairs hospital employees, U.S. Community Credit Union has grown into a full-service financial institution with over 22,700 members, more than $1.7 million in assets, and 10 branches. Two of its branches are student-run and located in area high schools, where they provide full services to students, faculty, and staff during the lunch period.
Founded in 1950, The Tennessee Credit Union (TTCU) has grown into a full-service financial institution with nearly $3 million in assets and 10 branches across East and Middle Tennessee. To promote saving among youth, TTCU allows young community members to open accounts with a $5 deposit. It also offers prizes to youth who save each month and operates a branch out of a local high school.
Founded in 1955 by a group of educators aiming to ensure people could access low-cost financial services, Cornerstone Financial Credit Union has grown into a credit union with 33,000 members, nearly $3 million in assets, and 6 branches across Middle Tennessee. Committed to the community, Cornerstone has awarded $25,000 in college scholarships to area students since 2011.