Local Living Economies Movement needs Worker Co-op Legislation

The following open letter is a part of the Presidio Graduate School’s Capital Markets course. For one of the course assignments, students write a letter to an oversight body, government entity or other appropriate institution. The topic: changing the sector of capital markets that relates to their chosen topic so it reinforces principles of sustainability. Follow along here.

An Open Letter to California Assembly Member Julia Brownley

2012 was declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Cooperatives (ILO, 2010).

To celebrate this achievement, I would like to propose that the current California statute be enhanced to broaden guidelines for worker co-ops.  As a constituent who lives in Oak Park, CA, my research surrounding this topic indicates that the California cooperative statute was primarily designed for consumer co-ops (Katovich, 2009).  We all can enjoy the benefits that we have from consumer co-ops like credit-unions, agriculture and utilities, but why has the worker co-op been left behind?

The US Cooperatives by Type Summary of Key Economic Indicators (UWCC, 2010) is as follows:

Clearly, only 1% of cooperatives exist as worker co-ops (see above), so being left behind is also a national issue. Given the current economic conditions, citizens should be considering new options that bring economic interest to workers who feel compelled to be owners of a business that can provide more financial and job security here at home.

I recognize that co-ops can be incorporated under other statutes not specific to co-operatives, but the intention  is to provide a co-operative statute that covers more than one sector for parameters of governance and operation.

The worker statue could be designed around the seven Rochdale or ICA (The International Co-operative Alliance) principles as follows:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic membership control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and  independence
  5. Education, training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for community

In larger context, civilization has the need to continue to evolve economic democracy.   Human capital continues to be commoditized worldwide and slavery has not been eliminated from our world.  Democracy can exist in both political structure and economic structures.  This is not an effort to democratize capitalism.  It should be thought of as a new road to evolve our civilization’s choices. The Mondragon Co-operative Corporation in Spain shows us a working prototype to learn from.  Not perfect, but a structure that shows merit and accomplishment.

Ms. Brownley, I request that a bill be authored to move this issue ahead in the legislative process, and I would like to help.   Your response to this matter is of great importance to me, the state of California, and our country.  As you know, California likes to lead the nation in many new initiatives , so I encourage action to do the same here and I appreciate the time you have taken to consider this matter.  I welcome your thoughts and ideas on next steps and strategy.  May I come to your office to discuss this? I would like to follow up with you in a few weeks and, If you would like further information, or if you have any questions, please contact me.

Best Regards,

Mike Weislik

2 responses

  1. As Bernard already posted above, there is work underway to create a Worker Coop specific law for the state of CA. Currently, worker coops in CA have to use the Consumer Cooperative statute to incorporate as coops, which makes it harder and is a less of a legit option for folks coming together to start a worker-owned business. The group of attorneys, advocates, and coop developers working on this project will have more resources for the public to get involved come early June 2011. In the meantime, please stay tuned to either the Sustainable Economies Law Center’s website (http://www.theselc.org) or to ours… Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (www.NoBAWC.org) for updates about this important project. Thanks!

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