There’s a new major victory for the cooperative movement: the city of Berkeley, California recently threw its support behind worker co-ops as a way to combat economic inequality and help the city’s local economy flourish. According to the East Bay Express:
The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously on Fe.26 to include co-ops in the city’s small-business revolving loan fund; give co-ops, along with women- and minority-owned businesses, preference for city contracts; and provide ongoing technical assistance to help existing small businesses convert to worker cooperatives.
More city governments have begun to support worker cooperatives as a way to build sustainable economies. In the past, both New York City and Madison, WI have made major commitments to worker co-op development and support for this very reason.
A report by the Democracy Collaborative, a national organization promoting worker cooperatives, cites studies finding that worker-owned businesses had higher productivity and efficiency and lower worker turnover than conventional businesses, and were only one-third as likely to fail.
The impact of worker cooperatives is demonstrable and apparent. They aren’t just a far off theory: co-ops are a way to implement economic change in our communities right now. That’s why the number of worker co-ops has soared in the past decade.
Interest in worker cooperatives has grown since the 2008 recession. Esteban Kelly, director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, told the Co-op News last year that the number of worker cooperatives in this country has almost doubled in the last 10 years, primarily in communities of color and especially in immigrant communities. Some other cities, including New York, Cleveland, and Madison, Wisc., have provided some support for worker co-op development, although none has a program as comprehensive as the one Berkeley is committed to developing.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the efforts of cooperative organizers and activists, who have been laying the groundwork for co-op recognition and support for years.
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