The First Annual Austin Co-op Summit–Principle 6 in Action, The Wheatsville Breeze
“The thing I like most about the co-op movement is that it actually moves. It doesn’t just gripe about the exploitative corporate powers in our society. It doesn’t just talk about the need for democracy. It gives ordinary people a practical way to do democracy.” With those words, Jim Hightower–illustrious Texas, rabble-rouser, and political populist–opened the first annual Austin Co-op Summit. Jim set the tone for a day of inspiration and hard work as cooperators from all over Austin, and as far away as Grand Rapids, Michigan, came together to learn how we can make a better world through the cooperative movement. Read more.
From Occupation to Cooperation, The Austin Chronicle
They called it “breaking up with your bank.”
At the height of the Occupy movement in 2011, more than 700,000 people nationwide moved their savings from institutions like Bank of America to credit unions. Besides offering more competitive rates, credit unions are in principle democratically governed, owned by their customers. The one-person-one-vote egalitarianism and cooperative structure of credit unions appeals to people tired of banks structuring loans and imposing fees to profit distant shareholders, as well as to those who objected to the role of major national banks in creating the conditions that led to the nationwide recession.
A group of Austinites is proposing to sustain that cooperative spirit and expand it to other sectors of the economy. Read more.
A Cooperatively Green Clean, The Wheatsville Breeze
In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC). Since then, Austin, Texas has seen growing activity around the cooperative model, from the founding of Black Star Co-op and Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery, to the formation of the Austin Cooperative Think Tank. Now, in the midst of IYC, Austin is home to the first workerowned green cleaning cooperative in Texas: Dahlia Green Cleaning Services!
Dahlia grew out of a partnership between Cooperation Texas, a local nonprofit dedicated to the development and support of worker-owned cooperatives, and the Workers Defense Project (WDP), a membership-based organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment. Read more.
Ethics Overlooked at McCombs, The Daily Texan
Nicole Renaux graduated from the Red McCombs School of Business in May 2010 and got a job at Black Star Co-op, a beer brewery and pub that is owned cooperatively by about 3,000 of its customers. At Black Star, the workers are organized democratically. For a reasonable fee, anybody can be an owner and run for the board of directors and participate in beer design meetings. The workers are split into four functional teams — beer, kitchen, business and pub — and they elect their team leaders and a board-staff liaison to keep the workers accountable to the board. Renaux says of her time in McCombs, “We were primed to work for Fortune 500s … I had limited experience in small business education and nothing in democratic businesses.” She believes her education didn’t adequately prepare her for the job she currently holds.
Renaux would have liked to have learned the types of skills that are necessary to meet the challenges of a democratically managed workplace — for instance, practical instruction in how to deal with accountability and discipline when there is no explicitly designated manager. She is not alone in that wish. Many incoming students at campuses nationwide are demanding that more of their course work be dedicated to topics of moral and ethical import. Read more.
Austin’s Cooperation Texas receives CCHD grant, Catholic Spirit
When María Muñoz was 14, she started working as a domestic servant. She cared for children, ironed clothes, cleaned house –– even washed windows –– and cooked meals.
“One felt humiliated,” said Muñoz. “They treated us badly, but we didn’t have a choice. If you complained they would fire you and quickly find someone else who would take the job.”
There were not many employment options in the small community in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, and her income was needed to help her parents and nine siblings.
Today, however, Muñoz is part owner of the Dahlia Green Cleaning Services in Austin with Lorena Hernandez, Cyndi Jiménez, Brenda Jiménez and Eva Marroquín.
The business was launched in June with the help of Cooperation Texas, an Austin-based nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to create sustainable jobs through the development, support and promotion of worker-owned cooperatives. Read more.
Questions for Carlos Perez de Alejo on Worker Cooperatives, The Texas Observer
This is Part Ten in an occasional series of Q&As with Texans involved in issues of the environment and energy. (Read Part One with Bee Moorhead here, Part Two with Andy Sansom here, Part Three with Katherine Hayhoe here, Part Four with Patrick Kennedy here, Part Five with Michael Banks here, Part Six with Gabriel Eckstein here, Part Seven with John Nielsen-Gammon here, Part Eight with Tad Patzek here, and Part Nine with Charles Porter here.)
Carlos Perez de Alejo is a co-founder and executive director of Cooperation Texas, a non-profit established in 2009. Originally from Miami, Carlos has lived in Austin since 2006. Committed to combating social and economic inequality, Carlos also serves on the Board of Directors for United for a Fair Economy. He holds an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and has written on cooperatives, labor, and immigration for the Austin-American Statesmen, Dollars & Sense, YES, and Z Magazine.
I interviewed Carlos by phone in April about his and others’ efforts to address environmental and economic crises by building worker-owned cooperatives. After all, the United Nations has declared 2012 the “International Year of Cooperatives.” Didn’t know that, did you? Read More.
Austin Co-ops Thriving as City Grows, Austin Post
Wheatsville Food Co-op was started in a garage near the University of Texas in 1976. Now, more than three decades later, the member-owned grocer has announced plans for a second location down south, and representatives said they plan to open more stores over the next 15 years to accommodate their quickly growing member base.
As the value of co-ops is being recognized by everyone from The United Nations (which declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives) to Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who said he belongs to “at least two of them” in a ceremony echoing the UN’s proclamation, those in the know say the cooperative community in Austin is growing as more people seek out local, independent and socially conscious business and services. Read More.
Soy dueña y trabajadora, ¡ahora sí!
Cuando Eva Marroquín se lastimó mientras trabajaba limpiando una casa el año pasado, no se imaginó que ese herida la llevaría a crear una compañía de limpieza junto con otras mujeres con experiencias similares.
“Me caí de las escaleras de una casa y la mujer que me contrató para ayudarla a limpiar su casa, no hizo nada por ayudarme, ni me preguntó días después cómo seguía”, recuerda Marroquín, quien dice que cuando por fin su gerente se comunicó con ella fue para reclamarle que debía pagar por una estufa dañada en la casa, aunque Marroquín dice que ella no había tocado la estufa.
Cuando Marroquín se negó a pagar, la entonces gerente de la compañía la amenazó con no pagarle por el trabajo ya hecho y de entregarla a Inmigración.
“Fue muy injusta conmigo”, dijo Marroquín. Pero, gracias a sus años de voluntarismo con la organización Proyecto Defensa Laboral (PDL), supo cuáles eran sus derechos y hasta tomó parte en una nueva iniciativa de PDL creada para apoyar a la autosuficiencia de los trabajadores. Ahora Marroquín es una de cuatro mujeres dueñas de la compañía de limpieza Dahlia Green Cleaning Services. Read More.
Sweat, Equity: How vegan doughnuts can help fix the economy, The Austin Chronicle
In a small commercial kitchen off Montopolis Drive in southeast Austin, an industrial mixer clatters rhythmically in the corner while Leigh Ann Jensen carefully measures out sugar, chocolate, maple syrup, and instant coffee for glazes that will come together later. Meanwhile, across the room Christina Waite rolls, cuts, and weighs dough, placing tray after tray of the delicate rings into a proofing cabinet to rest and rise. The young women make an efficient, cheerful team, despite the fact that it’s 2am. (Their interlocutor, on the other hand, aches for the comfort of bed.) The air fills with the heat and fragrance of the melted, burbling GMO-free, vegan oil, heralding the hour: it’s time to make the doughnuts. Read more
Credit Unions Ask, ‘Now What?’ Answer: Invest in Cooperatives
The president and chief executive of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU), Fred R. Becker Jr., posed an important question in the Washington Post, “Credit unions reported a surge in membership after Bank Transfer Day. Now what?”
Anger over big banks’ announced plan to charge for debit card use combined with the energy behind the Occupy Movement fueled the successful Move Your Money campaign that culminated on November 5th with Bank Transfer Day. The campaign resulted in approximately 700,000 new members depositing $4.5b into credit unions across the country since September. It’s been estimated that this brings the total assets held by US credit unions to surpass $1 trillion. While credit unions may have been a passive participant in the battle between an enraged public and big Wall Street banks, with this new influx of financial capital and a membership base exceeding 91 million they are now in a powerful position to strategically support the new progressive movement for a more sustainable economy. Read more.
Edible Cooperative: Red Rabbit Bakery, Edible Austin
It started with a movie—a political documentary, to be exact: Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. Cathy Ruiz watched it and was captivated by the featured cooperative bakery that offered equal compensation for all member workers, including the CEO. She went to her job at a commercial bakery the next day and posed a question to her fellow bakers: “Does anyone want to start a cooperative bakery?” Read more.
An Economy Turned Upside Down, Shareable
While mainstream America is hoping for federal economic reform, some social justice organizations have a radically different idea, and are organizing low-income communities to build a new economy from the grassroots up. Tired of asking for change from the top down, they are taking their economy into their own hands. Read more.
Fixing the Future, NOW on PBS
In a one-hour PBS special, Host David Brancaccio visits communities across the country using innovative approaches to create jobs and build prosperity in our new economy, including Third Coast Workers for Cooperation. To see the full length documentary online, click here.
Embrace the Cooperative Movement, Austin American Statesman
In the midst of mounting economic insecurity, fueled by widespread unemployment, foreclosures and budget cuts, many are seeking alternative models to business as usual. From community gardens to bartering networks, grassroots efforts are sprouting up across the country. One pillar of the trend is an international institution with over 160 years of experience in local, sustainable economic development: a cooperative. Read more.
Austin nonprofit teaching how to create, run cooperatives, Austin Business Journal
Jeanette Monsalve and three friends — all but one mothers — started making empanadas to raise money for a project. And when orders for their pastries kept coming in after their fundraising stopped, they knew they had the makings of a business.
They also knew they didn’t want the typical business model, so they decided to create their catering company as a worker cooperative. Read more.
Co-op businesses receive guidance from organization, The Daily Texan
Third Coast Workers for Cooperation, Austin’s first cooperative development organization, held a graduation ceremony Saturday evening for the first group of participants in its business course.
In October, Carlos Perez de Alejo and Andi Shively helped create the organization’s Cooperative Business Institute, which prepares individuals “to establish and manage their own worker-owned, cooperative business” Read more.
Building a Place to Build Community, The Austin Chronicle
Thursday, May 6, marks the grand opening celebration of 5604 Manor – the unpretentiously named space that organizers hope will become a Northeast-side center for community activism in Austin, to be used as a work, collaboration, and event space for a range of progressive groups. The founding organizations include the Workers Defense Project (Proyecto Defensa Laboral), which supports the interests of immigrant workers, especially in the construction industry; Third Coast Workers for Cooperation, which plans to establish workers’ co-op businesses in green industries Read more.
Green Worker Co-ops, The Texas Observer
Last month, Fox News weeper Glenn Beck managed to force green jobs advisor Van Jones from his perch in the Obama administration.
Beck got his scalp but he did little to discredit Jones’ fundamental idea: That the twin economic and environmental crises are intertwined and can – and must – be addressed together.
One of the problems with modern environmentalism has been the notion that the economy and the environment are in tension. Powerful corporate interests and right-wing politicians play on this meme. Read more.
A Green and Democratic Place, The Austin Chronicle
If the term and concept “worker-owned cooperatives” sounds unfamiliar to you, that should be about to change. On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Omar Freilla, team coordinator of the New York-based Green Worker Cooperatives, will be speaking in Austin, and thereby helping to launch a similar local effort: Third Coast Workers for Cooperation. Like the South Bronx GWC, the Third Coast group is “committed to the development of ecologically sustainable worker cooperatives,” with a particular focus on low-income minority communities. Read more.