Cooperatives (Co-ops)

Will Co-ops Spark a New Civil Rights Movement?

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.

The Union Co-op Model

Our infographic highlights this innovative template for worker-owned businesses

University of California, San Diego’s Student-Run Co-ops

Students at the University of California, San Diego run four separate cooperatives:  1) Che Café, an all-ages DIY music venue, vegan café, and event space; 2) Groundwork Books, a bookstore specializing in progressive literature and low-priced textbooks; 3) The Food Cooperative, San Diego’s oldest organic vegan grocery store; and 4) The General Store Co-op, a worker cooperative selling affordable food, school supplies, and other products.  To help support these cooperatives, in 2017 UC San Diego agreed to provide each enterprise with free utilities and rental space for just $1 a year.

San Diego County Credit Union

Established in 1938 to serve local government employees, the San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) is now the largest locally-owned financial institution in San Diego with more than $8.3 billion in assets, 43 branches, and over 381,000 members.  Through its SDCCU Biz Kid$ program, the credit union provides free classroom curriculum and resources designed to teach youth about money and business.  The credit union also offers weekly free seminars to the public on a range of finance-related topics through its Financial Wellness Wednesdays initiative.

Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market

Founded as a small neighborhood buying club in 1971, Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market has grown into a consumer-owned cooperative with 13,000 member-owners that specializes in selling certified organic, wholesome, minimally processed, vegetarian, Fair Trade, and environmentally safe foods and products.  The co-op operates out of a 6,000 square foot energy-efficient green building constructed with recycled content steel, engineered lumber, and non-toxic, recycled, and sustainably harvested building materials.

California Coast Credit Union

Founded by a group of educators in 1928, California Coast Credit Union is the oldest credit union in San Diego.  The nonprofit has more than $2.3 billion in assets, over 150,000 members, and 25 branches across San Diego and Riverside Counties.  To support local education, California Coast established the Cal Coast Cares Foundation in 2015 through which it awards over $60,000 a year in scholarships to local students pursuing higher education and small grants to teachers to support projects in a STREAM field (i.e., Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math). Read more about California Coast Credit Union...

Philadelphia Free School

The Philadelphia Free School (PFS) is a democratic school operated by its students, staff, parents, and community members, with each individual within the school community having one vote in decision-making.  Opened in 2011 with 16 students, PFS now has 80 students aged 4-19 who work collaboratively on self-initiated activities and govern themselves and the school.

Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

The Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) is a cooperative membership association for cooperatives in the Philadelphia region.  Guided by a mission to improve the lives of people in the Philadelphia region by supporting democratically organized businesses, promoting the principles of the international cooperative movement, and growing the cooperative economy, PACA develops and implements programs to connect, educate, and serve Philadelphia area co-ops and cooperators.  The nonprofit also advocates at the municipal, state, and federal levels for policies supporting the growth of cooperative businesses.

Philadelphia Service Cooperative

The Philadelphia Service Cooperative strives to bring people closer together and inspire them to be part of their local communities rather than isolating themselves and competing for resources.  Its flagship project is its West Philadelphia-based Service House, an 8-bedroom housing cooperative comprised of resident-owners who perform regular community service.  The house also serves as a venue for socially conscious events and as a base-of-operations for social entrepreneurship.

Beaumont at Bryn Mawr

Beaumont is a resident-owned, resident-governed cooperative continuing care retirement community designed to fulfill the social, recreational, and health needs of adults aged 60 and older.  Committed to reducing its environmental and carbon footprint, Beaumont composts nearly 50 pounds of biodegradables on a daily basis (which it then converts into organic compost for its gardens), relies on geothermal wells to augment traditional heating and cooling systems, and uses LEDs in all common area and exterior lighting, among other eco-focused practices.  Beaumont has about 300 owner-residents.

Ardent Credit Union

Founded in 1977, Ardent Credit Union now holds $631 million in assets and has 32,000 members.  To support its members, the credit union awards ten scholarships every year to members pursuing higher education and runs numerous seminars focused on financial education.  Committed to its employees, Ardent offers staff up to $6,000 a year to cover job-related tuition expenses, has an on-site nutritionist, and has been recognized as one of the best credit unions to work for by CU Journal.

Democratic Public Ownership for the 21st Century

The Cooperative Party

Noting that a majority of British residents support public ownership of the railways and key utilities, this new paper from the Co-Operative Party calls for modern forms of democratic public ownership. The authors outline how democratic public ownership can lead to productivity gains and protection from government underinvestment in critical infrastructure. The paper outlines what ownership could look like across rail, water, and energy, making actionable recommendations in each sector

Employee Ownership: A Triple Win Solution

Democracy at Work Institute

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.

Legacy Credit Union

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.

Avadian

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.