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Dispatches From The Cooperative Economy

Austin taxi drivers form partnership with Cooperation Texas

November 12th, 2015

12122762_930537916981990_3314483442833968801_nIn response to notoriously bad working conditions, taxi drivers in Austin are seeking a solution that goes beyond business as usual. The Taxi Drivers Association of Austin (TDAA), a membership-based organization representing hundreds of Austin taxi drivers, has formed a partnership with Cooperation Texas to start a unionized, worker-owned taxi cooperative — a model that is being adopted in cities around the country.

Within the last five years alone, taxi cooperatives have emerged in Portland, Oregon, Denver, Colorado, and Alexandria, Virginia, to name a few. Since 1979, Madison, Wisconsin has been home to Union Cab, the largest and most successful worker-owned taxi cooperative in the country, with a mission to “create jobs at a living wage or better in a safe, humane, and democratic environment.” With the recent approval of City Council for a taxi co-op franchise, Austin will join a growing number of cities that are paving the way toward a more just and sustainable model for the taxi industry.

On average, taxi drivers in Austin, many of them first generation immigrants, work 12 to 14 hours per day, 6 to 7 days per week. To work their shift, taxi drivers must lease (rent) their cabs each week with no guaranteed income. In fact, the average driver makes $2.75 an hour, earning well below the Federal minimum wage. Taxi drivers in Austin have no insurance or benefits, and little to no voice in the city ordinances that regulate the industry — much less in the companies that lease the cabs to them. According to the US Department of Labor, taxi driving is one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the country.

As low-income workers, taxi drivers are forced to work for three exploitative companies that have a virtual monopoly on available cabs, preferential treatment on city ordinances pertaining to the taxi industry, and every incentive to squeeze as many pennies out of the drivers as possible in the face of increasing competition from the so-called “sharing economy” in the form of UBER and LYFT.

Unlike conventional companies, worker cooperatives measure success not simply by the money they earn, but by the well-being of their workers, the sustainability of their business, and their overall contribution to the community in which they operate. Austin is home to more than 40 cooperative businesses, boasting a membership base of more than 700,000 people, generating over $1 billion in total revenue, and employing more than 2,400 Austinites. A taxi co-op in Austin offers a new vision for the transportation industry and builds on the city’s growing reputation as a dynamic hub for cooperative enterprise.

This Saturday, members of TDAA will begin our Cooperative Business Institute Academy. If you want to support Austin’s taxi drivers in taking this historic step toward creating the first worker-owned taxi cooperative in Texas, make a tax-deductible donation to Cooperation Texas today!

The Next American Revolution: Beyond Corporate Capitalism and State Socialism

November 2nd, 2015

maxresdefaultWhile there’s been no shortage of commentary about the structural crisis plaguing the American economic and political system, from wage stagnation and chronic unemployment to unchecked corporate and state power and growing inequality, analyses that offer practical, politically viable solutions to these problems have been few and far between. This illustrated presentation from distinguished historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz is a rare and stunning exception. Pointing to efforts already under way in thousands of communities across the U.S., from co-ops and community land trusts to municipal, state, and federal initiatives that promote entrepreneurship and sustainability, Alperovitz marshals years of research to show how bottom-up strategies can work to check monopolistic corporate power, democratize wealth, and empower communities. The result is a highly accessible look at the current economy and a common-sense roadmap for building a system more in sync with American values. Join us for an engaged discussion after the film, which is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 17th @ 7pm

WHERE: Cooperation Texas, 5555 N. Lamar Blvd. Suite K-101

RSVP on Facebook HERE.

African American Cooperative Economics Series

October 22nd, 2015

The City of Austin is growing, but its Black population is in decline. As the city has grown, so too has economic inequality, which has disproportionately affected Black communities.  But for generations, African Americans have experimented with cooperative economics in order to survive and thrive. This December, we will host a unique 3-part series exploring and celebrating cooperative economics in historical and contemporary African American communities. This series will highlight the efforts of Black communities to establish alternative, cooperative economic enterprises in response to systemic inequality. Join us for all of the following events:

Contemporary African American Cooperatives: Film ShortsUrban-Farming-Mandela-Foods-Cooperative_NKL47111

When: December 2nd, 7:00 pm
Where: Huston-Tillotson’s Dickey-Lawless Auditorium (free parking)
What: Get an inside look at thriving worker-owned cooperatives in Black communities with these 2 mini documentaries featuring Cooperative Home Care Associates and Mandela Foods. Worker-owner, Adrionna, will join us from Oakland, CA to share about the experience of working at Mandela Foods. Free and open to the public.



GordonNembhard5-14Historical African American Cooperatives:
An Evening with Jessica Gordon Nembhard

When: December 9th, 7:00 pm
Where: Huston-Tillotson’s Dickey-Lawless Auditorium (free parking)
What: Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of the groundbreaking book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Thought and Practice joins us to share her research, insight, and vision for a sustainable economy where Black lives matter. Free and open to the public.


djshaniCelebration: Dance Party with DJ Shani

When: December 18th, 9:00 pm
Where: Sahara Lounge (free parking)
What: DJ Shani will serve up tunes to groove to all night on the dance floor in celebration of  the rich legacy of Black economic cooperation.



Thank you to our partners and co-sponsors: Southern Grassroots Economies Project, Third Coast Activist Resource Center, Huston-Tillotson University, Hoover’s Cooking, Wheatsville Food Co-op, and the Social Justice Institute.

Co-op Two-Step: 4th Tap launches at Black Star Co-op

October 14th, 2015

11047925_10153312866059302_2030681575079987361_nOn Saturday, October 24th, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op will make its grand entrance into Austin’s growing craft beer scene with a “Tap takeover” at Black Star Co-op. Enjoy 4th Tap’s flagship beer for the first time, including: Sun-Eater sorghum ale, Renewal tamarind wheat ale, and Long Walk grapefruit IPA (+potential surprise brews). There will also be deals on taster flights, free glassware, and of course delicious pub fare. 4th Tap is a graduate of Cooperation Texas’ Cooperative Business Institute Academy and is setting a remarkable precedent as the first worker-owned brewery cooperative in the country. Join us to welcome 4th Tap into Austin’s cooperative economy at Black Star Co-op in this historic example of “cooperation among cooperatives”. To RSVP on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

A Snapshot of Austin’s Cooperative Economy

October 12th, 2015

Austin's Co-op EconomyEarlier this year, we released the Beyond Business as Usual report detailing the history and impact of cooperatives in Austin. Here are some facts and figures about Austin’s cooperative economy. Click the image to enlarge, and for more information, check out the full report.