Worker Co-ops as a Strategy for Labor

AUGUST 6-8, 2010

Your Name: Mary Hoyer
Your organization or workplace: USFWC UnionCo-ops Committee
Your email: mhoyer22@comcast.net
Your phone: 413-256-0726
Your street address, city, state, zip: 75 Woodlot Road / Amherst, MA 01002
Biography of the planner/presenters: Mary Hoyer is a community and cooperative development consultant working out of Amherst, Massachusetts. She works with the Cooperative Fund of New England, a lending organization for cooperatives and community-based nonprofits, as well as with the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, a regional consortium of democratically-owned and managed businesses and their supporters. She has worked in organizational development and governance, anti-racism and anti-apartheid initiatives, public and community education, and union organizing. She holds a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, an M.A. from the University of Kentucky, and a B.A. from Occidental College.

Title of your proposed workshop: Worker Co-ops as a Strategy for Labor

Brief description of your proposed workshop:
This workshop will focus on current work that labor unions are doing to create worker co-ops resulting in jobs, ownership, and self management. It willinclude discussion of resolutions on worker cooperation that unions have been submitting to their memberships and governing councils to gain support for further work, development of educational videos and toolkits to introduce labor to the worker co-op concept, and possible funding arrangements to underwrite worker co-op formation in the future. It will also include specific projects being undertaken in Oregon, Maine, Oklahoma, and Canada, as well as the historic United Steel Workers collaboration with Mondragon. In addition, we’ll discuss the work undertaken by the USFWC UnionCo-ops Committee, which was established at Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in 2007, then transferred to USFWC in 2008 after it expanded to participants throughout the U. S.

Which topic / track does your workshop fit in (check all that apply) :
– Models and Examples
– Vision: Building a Restoration Economy

Objective of the workshop. Tools and/or knowledge your participants will
come away with: To inform people of work that unions are doing. To attract
labor activists to the conference to meet worker owners and technical
assistance providers. To share ideas among various labor unions about work
they’re doing. To encourage mutual work between labor and co-ops that will
strengthen the overall increase in worker co-ops. To eventually direct union
funds to worker co-op formation.

What handouts or tools will you offer?: Still in the planning stages.

Who will present the workshop? What are the presenters’ background and
experience?: We’re considering the following people as possible participants:
Mary Hoyer/facilitator; Rob Witherell/United Steel Workers; Grant Swanson and
Steve Hughes/AFSCME Oregon; Matt Jordan/AFSCME Oklahoma; Hazel Corcoran/ Canadian Worker Co-op Federation; Daphne Loring/Maine Fair Trade

Describe the format you envision: Panel, presentation, discussion,
activity, etc.: panel roundtable with plenty of discussion and exchange of
ideas among presenters and participants

Who is the intended audience? People from small co-ops, large co-ops, new
to co-ops? Specific region, industry, sector, group? : Worker cooperators
interested in strengthening the movement via work with labor unions; labor
activists; t.a. providers

Inclusion/power analysis:: The notion of worker cooperators and labor activists working together to form and fund worker co-ops speaks directly to
the issue of class empowerment.

Do you want to limit the size of your workshop? : no

Time length: 120 minutes
Parts: 1-part (either 90 minutes or 120 minutes depending on your selection above)

Do you have any scheduling preferences?: Friday or Saturday at this
point. This may change as we contact panelists.

Does this workshop require any A/V equipment or other materials? If so,
what?: power point hook up

Not all of the rooms at Clark Kerr are wheelchair accessible. Do you
need wheelchair or other special access?: We may but don’t know that now.

Do you plan to hold this workshop away from the main conference site at
UC Berkeley? If so, where?: No

Notes or further comments: This is one of two workshops being proposed by
the UnionCo-ops Committee. Liz Ryder, committee co-chair, is putting
together a workshop entitled Benefits and Pensions for Worker Co-ops, in
which we hope to build on the excellent information obtained via the recent
USFWC benefits survey.

Benefits Workshop 

AUGUST 6-8, 2010

Facilitator: Liz Ryder
Your organization or workplace: USFWC Union/Co-ops Committee
Your email: liz@redwire.us
Your phone: 424-244-0633

Liz Ryder is staff in the organizing and Field services Department of AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. She is a lifelong labor, community, political and human rights activist. She was an organizer against the anti-immigrant and racist initiatives in California in the 1990’s. She worked for SEIU on the Justice for Janitor’s campaign as well as the Healthcare Action Campaign. She was a founding member in both the East Timor Action Network and now the West Papua Action Network. She received her BA, MA and PhD from UCLA in Linguistic Anthropology and lived in Papua New Guinea for 4 years while conducting her dissertation research.

Workshop: Benefits Workshop

This workshop will bring together brokers and insurance agents to assist worker cooperatives with the difficult task of getting heath care and retirement benefits. Leslie Leyba, Membership Coordinator, will discuss the results of the recent benefits survey of the member cooperatives of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives.
Barb Hendricks, Sales and Marketing Director or the Scarborough Insurance Agency in San Francisco, will discuss the changes in the health benefits field since the passage of the Health Care Reform as well as other issues surrounding the challenge of worker cooperatives to secure good healthcare benefits. Ian McCloud, of the Social Equity Group in Berkeley will discuss the challenge of making retirement investments as a worker cooperative, and socially conscious investments available in this economy. A representative from a Union Benefits Trust will discuss the difference between union benefits and those group benefits now available to worker cooperatives. Health, Dental and vision care will be discussed. Special attention will be given to the advantage of being a member of a defined benefit pension plan.

Objective of the Workshop: The objective is to educate the worker-cooperative community about the various options they have for getting good health care and retirement benefits. We will discuss the experience of worker cooperatives currently have had with providing these benefits. Then compare what can be obtained as separate plans versus what sorts of benefits are provided through union membership.

Participants: Leslie Leyba, Membership Director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Barb Hendricks, Sales and Marketing Director or the Scarborough Insurance Agency, Ian McCloud, of the Social Equity Group in Berkeley, Rob Witherell of the United Steelworkers, and Liz Ryder, Co-Chair of the Union/Co-op Subcommittee of the US Federation of worker Cooperatives.

Describe the format you envision: A series of presentations each followed by a question and answer and discussion session, panel roundtable with plenty of discussion and exchange of ideas among presenters and participants

Intended Audience: Worker cooperators: Any co-ops looking onto providing benefits, as well as ones already providing benefits that wish to find better benefits, plus individuals interested in strengthening the movement via work with labor unions; labor activists; technical assistance providers

120 minutes

Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy, 2009
US Federation of Worker Cooperatives Conference, 2008

Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy, 2009
Pittsburgh, PA

Unions and Coops: Current Activities
Date/Time: Friday, July 31st, 3:15 – 5:00 pm (1 hour, 45 minutes; 5 minutes opener and intros, 15 minutes for each presenter, 40 minutes for discussion)

Facilitator: Andi Shively, Southern New Hampshire University & Third Coast Workers for Cooperation

Presenters :
Hazel Corcoran – Canadian Federation of Worker Co-ops (presentation available in documents section of this wiki).
Denise Hernandez & Stu Schneider – Cooperative Home Care Associates (presentation available in documents section of this wiki).
Eric Johnson – Red Sun Press
Ajamu Nangwaya – Canadian Union of Public Employees

Description: Panelists will briefly discuss current collaborations between the labor and workplace democracy movements, offering their thoughts on the promise and challenges of these collaborations and how to foster labor/coop solidarity. Presentations will cover (1) Collaborations between the worker co-op movement and the labour movement in Canada: what has been done, & where are we heading?; (2) The history of Cooperative Home Care Associates partnership with SEIU local 1199, how their initial challenges were transformed into effective relationships, and their current activities, including the use of collective bargaining, participating in 1199/SEIU’s health insurance plan, using 1199/SEIU’s Education Benefit Fund and Immigration Assistance Program, and a brief summary of their Labor/Management Committee; (3) How and why Red Sun Press, a worker owned cooperative, became a union shop, their experiences as unionized worker-owners, and what it has meant for their cooperative; (4) The opportunity for collaboration on a labour self-management agenda between the worker cooperative and labour movements presented by the current crisis in capitalism, and the importance of a strong class struggle orientation in both movements; this presentation will propose an action plan for advancing labour self-management within the labour movement and class struggle education within both movements. These brief presentations will be followed by a group discussion.

Objectives: Participants will develop a specific understanding of the different approaches to labor/coop solidarity taken by these three organizations, will have the opportunity to explore some of the tensions between labor organizations and cooperatives, and will engage in a discussion about some positive steps that can be taken to develop labor/coop solidarity.

US Federation of Worker Cooperatives Conference 2008
New Orleans, LA

1. Panel discussion of Unions and Worker Cooperatives

Unions and Worker Co-ops: Stronger Together
Date/Time: Friday afternoon, June 20th (two hours: 5-minute opener and introductions; 15-20 minute presentation by each panelist; ~40 min Q & A and discussion)

Facilitator: Mary Hoyer / Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy and Co-op Fund of New England

Invitees: * Frank Adams / Southern Appalachian Center for Cooperative Ownership (confirmed)* Ajamu Nangwaya / Coalition of Black Trade Unionists* Adam Trott / Collective Copies and Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops* Lisa Stolarski / Jane Street Housekeeping * Liz Ryder / AFSCME

Issues to be addressed: What is the ECWD Union/Co-ops Committee? Are unions interested in worker cooperatives as a strategy for labor emancipation and power? What unions have worked on this issue? What have the outcomes been? Are worker co-ops unionized? Why? Which ones? What has the outcome been? What factors have facilitated unions and co-ops working together? What obstacles have there been? How can I get involved in these issues? What and who do I know that might move this work forward? What other workshops at this conference will expand on these issues?

2. Green – Union – Coops

The Green-Union-Coops Workshop is an attempt to bring together unions and coops to discuss the creation of Green-Union-Coops as a means to create sustainable union jobs.

The green jobs initiatives promote renewable energy while lifting workers out of poverty. The promise of green jobs is an economy of workers installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, brewing biofuels, building hybrid cars and erecting giant wind turbines. Labor unions view these new jobs as replacements for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a route out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are crucial to combating climate change.

Incubating worker cooperatives is a means of creating jobs which are based on workplace democracy; the members of a worker cooperative make decisions democratically by giving each person a vote and distributing income equitably to all workers. Worker cooperatives are businesses which remain local, contributing to local taxes and the local community.

Our hope in sponsoring this workshop is to involve the local residents of New Orleans in the reconstruction effort so that the poorest workers will benefit from the reconstruction of the city, the city will be reconstructed as a model green city, and the business of reconstruction will result in lasting job creation to uplift the local community while retaining ownership as worker owned cooperatives.


  • Omar Freilla, founder of the GREEN WORKER COOPERATIVES http://greenworker.coop
    • GREEN WORKER COOPERATIVES is a South Bronx-based organization dedicated to incubating worker-owned and environmentally friendly cooperatives in the South Bronx. Our approach is a response to high unemployment and decades of environmental racism. We don’t have the luxury to wait for new alternatives. That’s why we’re creating them. We believe that in order to address our environmental and economic problems we need new ways to earn a living that don’t require polluting the earth or exploiting human labor. Building an alternative green economy in the South Bronx is not a solo endeavor. Help support our work today by making a donation. All donations are tax-deductible and should be made out to Green Worker, Inc.
  • The Apollo Alliancewill present their mission, which includes: http://www.apolloalliance.org/
    • Launching a Green-Collar Job Initiative: Guidance for Cities:
    • Mayors across America are looking for ways to put people to work in “green-collar” jobs, making American cities cleaner, greener, and more energy efficient. This publication – due out in the first quarter of 2008 — will tell them how, highlighting best practices from around the country. A joint initiative of the Apollo Alliance, Green for All, the Center for American Progress, the Workforce Alliance and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy. Seeding the Growth of America’s Clean Energy Economy:
    • Seeding the Growth of America’s Clean Energy Economy:
    • This report will identify the specific investments we must make as a nation to transition to a clean energy future, put millions of Americans to work in a new generation of well-paid, green collar jobs, and make our country a global leader in clean energy products and services. The report will be the centerpiece of a national campaign to build public support for these essential investments.
    • Made in America: Strategies to Expand Domestic Manufacturing of Clean Energy Technology and Components:
    • This two-part research and policy initiative will examine what it will take to expand domestic manufacturing in the clean energy sector as part of our national shift to a clean energy future. The findings will provide the basis for national legislation and regional initiatives to expand domestic manufacturing of the technology needed to drive America (and the world) into the clean energy future.
  • Local Unions will be invited to participate:
    • IBEW Local 130 – New Orleans
    • Laborers Local 689 – New Orleans
    • Carpenters Local 1846 – New Orleans
    • Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 60 – New Orleans
    • Operating Engineers Local 406 – New Orleans
    • Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO
    • Gulf Coast Construction Career Center AFL-CIO

3. Roundtable Discussion of Unions and Worker Cooperatives


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