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.
This one-pager from the Democracy at Work Institute and the National Urban League provides a succinct summary of the benefits that employee ownership provides to employees, businesses, and local economies. Noting that the number of minority-owned businesses is increasing but that many of these businesses lack a succession plan, the info sheet highlights the opportunity to help these businesses convert to employee ownership to retain jobs and stabilize communities.
Founded in 1955 to serve the University of Alabama at Birmingham community, Legacy Credit Union now has over 38,000 members across the Greater Birmingham Metropolitan Area and holds over $420 million in assets. Committed to financial education, Legacy participates in a range of educational initiatives at local businesses, colleges, and high schools, and has developed an in-depth, 12-month financial literacy program for young adults.
Established in 1934 with just $70 in assets and a mission to serve telephone company employees, Avadian has grown into an institution holding roughly $750 million in assets. Headquartered in Birmingham, Avadian serves over 78,000 members through 20 branches across the state. To help its members develop and reach their financial goals, the credit union offers numerous programs including youth savings initiatives and free one-on-one financial management consultations. Committed to the community, Avadian also sponsors a range of area events and nonprofits, and has a particular focus on supporting efforts focused on education, financial literacy, and fostering connections between the community and chambers of commerce.
Founded in 1928 to serve area postal workers, Neighbors Credit Union now serves over 48,000 people living across the St. Louis region and holds over $352 million in assets. To encourage savings, the credit union runs several “clubs,” including Camp Cash, which rewards members 12 years and younger for every $10 they deposit. To support the community, Neighbors provides four college scholarships on an annual basis, and donates money and items to a range of community organizations.
First Community Credit Union is the largest credit union in Missouri with over $2.2 billion in assets, over 270,000 members, and 35 branches. Serving residents across St. Louis County, St. Louis City, Franklin County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, Warren County, and three Illinois counties, the credit union strives to help members improve their economic and social conditions. Committed to the St. Louis region, First Community sponsors a range of local events and nonprofit organizations.
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.