Cooperatives (Co-ops)

Community Organizing for a New Economy

Democracy Collaborative panel highlights transformative work of community-based organizations

Earlier this month at Left Forum, The Democracy Collaborative helped organize five panels on a variety of different topics related to cooperatives, sustainability and growing a new economy. The last session of the weekend, “Community Organizing for a New Economy,” offered a spirited conversation around some innovative new work that is helping build a new economy.

A Third of All States Now Have Benefit Corp Laws

A primer on the difference between B Corps and Benefit Corps
Copyright B Lab (
Last month, the state of Nevada became the 17th state to pass legislation enabling businesses to incorporate as benefit corporations. There are nearly a dozen other states considering legislation, illustrating just how rapidly this idea has spread since Maryland became the first to pass legislation in April 2010. Legislatures in all corners of the U.S. have supported this concept overwhelmingly. This widespread acceptance of a need for a corporation that is motivated by more than just profit is an intriguing trend especially as other environmental and economic trends continue to move in the opposite direction.

A New Era for Worker Ownership, 5 Years in the Making

Kari Lydersen
In these Times

Last month, New Era Windows Cooperative opened as a worker-owned cooperative in Chicago after a five-year struggle to preserve their livelihoods. This In These Times article by author Kari Lydersen details the workers’ struggle that began in 2008 when Republic Windows and Doors threatened to shutter the factory, inspiring the workers to occupy the facility.  After the new buyer Serious Metals failed to bring the business back, the workers decided to take matters into their own hands, negotiating a buy-out of all the equipment and the facility itself with the help of the United Electrical Workers union. The new worker-owners worked with the microfinance group The Working World to help finance the purchase and with the Center for Workplace Democracy to learn the ins-and-outs of business management.

Scaling Up The Cooperative Economy

Regional alliances and collaborations help spread cooperative business models
The Cooperative Issues Forum

At the 2013 Cooperative Issues Forum, hosted by the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) on May 8th at the National Press Club, representatives of three equally exemplary, but very different projects, outlined how they had used regional collaboration to advance the cooperative economy. Read more about Scaling Up The Cooperative Economy...

Worker Co-op New Era Windows Opens For Business

From sit-down strikes to state subsidies
Photo courtesy of Brendan Martin/The Working World

Last week, the New Era Windows cooperative celebrated its opening in a former Campbell’s Soup building in Chicago, the culmination of a hard-fought struggle by workers to save their livelihoods. Their well-documented struggle began in 2008 when the workers of Republic Windows and Doors occupied the factory to keep it from closing, attracting national attention. Read more about Worker Co-op New Era Windows Opens For Business...

NAHC Annual Conference

October 30th, 2013 to November 2nd, 2013
Seattle, WA

Mondragón Seminar and Tour

September 8th, 2013 to September 14th, 2013
Mondragón, Spain

Cooperative Development Center

A project of the Center of Southwest Culture that works to support healthy indigenous Latino communities, The Cooperative Development Center, or CODECE, builds cooperative businesses in the areas of organic agriculture, affordable housing and cultural tourism. CODECE advances the idea that the cooperative and communal models are an integral part of Native American life and have been an established form of working together for the common good among Nuevo Mexicanos for several centuries.  To date, CODECE has helped create five co-ops and identified six other opportunities to form co-ops. As a next step, a small portion of profits from all co-op income will go to create a Sustainable Economic Development Fund, the parameters of which will be determined by a committee of co-op employees. 

Greenbriar Townhouses Cooperative

Greenbriar Townhouses is one of only two cooperative housing communities in New Mexico. Each resident of the Greenbriar Townhouses is a member of the cooperatives and owns a share in the development.  Resident members are expected to participate on a committee responsible for managing the operation of the community. The community has 16 residential buildings, a small community library, a swimming pool, a playground and a community meeting room and provides members with central heating and air conditioning, water, sewer, garbage collection and recycling services.

Rio Grande Valley Farmers Guild

The Rio Grande Valley Farmers Guild is a cooperative of local family-run farms concentrated in Albuquerque's historically agricultural South Valley. Since its founding in 2008, the cooperative has focused primarily on its Cereal Grains Project that makes local and naturally cultivated whole grains and flours available to local markets, restaurants and directly to families throughout New Mexico.

La Montanita Co-op

La Montanita Co-op is a community-owned consumer cooperative with over 17,000 members. With three locations in Albuquerque, La Montanita offers fresh produce, bulk foods, local organic meats and cheeses and a variety of fair-trade and natural products. A strong supporter of local farmers, La Montanita offers more than 1,100 products from 400 local producers, and nearly 20 percent of purchases and sales go to local food.  The co-op also runs the regional Co-op Trade Food-Shed Project that creates wholesale markets and provides product distribution, delivery and refrigerated storage for local farmers and producers. In keeping with its commitment to the community, La Montanita provides education about the cooperative economic model and links between food, health and the environment.

Done Right, Eliminating Food Deserts Result in Community Oases

Building community wealth every step of the way
Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op. © Indy Food Co-op
Building healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities requires more than “bottom up” solutions. The importance of community ownership to ensure that projects that start at the bottom result in lasting community wealth for the people involved is often missing from the discussion. The local foods movement provides examples that illustrate the importance of this ownership principle in practice.

Democracy Collaborative Presents to Illinois Governor's Task Force

Public session April 24 on community wealth building
Next week in Chicago, Democracy Collaborative executive director Ted Howard will present testimony before the Governor's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise. The presentation will focus on a set of actionable policy recommendations to help position Illinois as the nation’s leader in community wealth building. The meeting will take place in room 314 at Roosevelt University’s Walter E. Heller College of Business, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

Ellen Macht on the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative

CEO chats about developing the first cooperative business, Atlanta Lettuce Works

Last week, The Democracy Collaborative's Stephanie Geller had the opportunity to chat with Ellen Macht, President and CEO of the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, about an exciting new project launched by The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to bring quality jobs, assets, and sustainable economic growth to Atlanta’s most marginalized neighborhoods. 

Rob Witherell

This month we interviewed Rob Witherell, representative for the United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition to working on contract negotiations, benefits analysis, research and organizing, Witherell has also led the United Steelworkers’ efforts on developing union co-ops and is the union’s lead liaison with the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation. In this interview, Witherell discusses what elevated co-op organizing to the top of the Steelworker agenda, commonalities between labor unions and cooperatives, how the union co-op model will work, what its challenges will be, and key accomplishments of the movement to date.