Tonight: Worker Co-ops and Socialism

JOIN the Black Workers & Wellness Center tonight (Monday, September 28th, at 6:30pm) for the “Worker Cooperatives & The Movement for Socialism” panel discussion. The panel will include Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, and Richard Wolff. 


Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Ph. D., is a political economist specializing in economic development policy, Black political economy, and popular economic literacy. Her research focuses on democratic community economics, cooperative businesses, worker ownership, and racial wealth inequality, all of which can be found in her book “Collective Courage; A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought & Practice”. Though a resident of Washington, D.C., Gordon Nembhard currently teaches at John Jay College, City University of New York.

Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, Ph. D., was a professor, researcher and consultant at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana. Her work focuses on economic democracy, self-management, democratic planning, worker cooperatives, business management and public policy towards the enterprise sector. She is author of Guía Introductoria sobre Cooperativismo para Cuba (Ed. Caminos, 2015) and Repensando el Socialismo Cubano: Propuestas para una economía democratica y cooperativa (Ruth Casa Editorial, 2013), and the edited the volume Cooperatives and Socialism: A View from Cuba (Palgrave, 2012).

Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City.

Cooperation as the Institution of the Common

The Polish journal Theoretical Practice has a special issue “Cooperation as the Institution of the Common.” While cooperatives can exist in capitalism, they can also go beyond capitalism and forge a new kind of social life. This special issue is great because it explores both the theory of cooperatives and the concrete practices of cooperatives and the common in Poland in the interwar period, during state socialism, and today’s capitalism. Most interesting is the inclusion of the 1904 “Stateless Socialism” by Edward Abramowski, one of the most important Polish philosophers at the turn of the last century, one of the founders of the Polish Cooperativists’ Society, and a visionary of cooperativism as means of “working people’s liberation.”

The Renovation of MLK Library

The Post article by Philip Kennicott about the opening this fall of the renovated MLK Library is great for a couple of reasons. First, the DC government did the renovation without a public-private partnership (though private architecture firms, etc. were involved), which is amazingly wonderful in the age of the seemingly endless privatization of public institutions:

There were early plans to add floors, and subdivide the building into public and private uses. Some proposals called for including condos or office space. But as the project went forward, and as the city thrived economically, the renovation, guided by a strict oversight process, was deemed viable without adding commercial uses.

Second, the MLK Library is expanding its public sharing resources to include tools and sewing machines, and potentially larger reading rooms:

Flanking the entrance to this massive lobby are the two central staircases, which lead to the basement, where new fabrication spaces include sewing machines and a tool-rental library, and to the new fifth floor, which includes access to the top level of a two-story auditorium. A double-level reading room also has been added, connecting the third and fourth floors on the east side of the structure.

Of course, people had made the MLK Library into a wonderful space long before the renovation, such as the Wednesday dinners for those without homes at tables in the lobby, the meetings that went on for all sorts of groups in the basement, the American Sign Language classes that went on upstairs, and the phenomenal Washingtoniana Room. So, we’ll see what our friends and neighbors come up with next.

Everything Co-op on Thursday

Tune in to WOL 1450 AM and Tune-in Radio, on July 9, 10:30 am, for Everything Co-op. This week Vernon interviews Anthony E. Cook, Professor at Georgetown University. Vernon and Professor Cook will discuss the role cooperatives can play in rebuilding under-served communities in a post COVID-19 World.

Professor Anthony Cook is a law professor at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University’s program in Public and International Affairs, and is a doctoral candidate in Sustainable Urban Development at Oxford University.

He teaches courses in Race and Democracy, Community Development, Cooperatives and a Practicum on Law, Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation that provides legal and business planning support to startup and early stage social impact entrepreneurs.

Professor Cook is a nationally recognized scholar in critical race theory and the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His book, The Least of These: Race, Law and Religion in American Culture, explores the relevance of the social gospel and King’s conception of the Beloved Community for race, class and cultural divides in American Society.

For his work as a scholar and community development practitioner – working at the intersection of critical theory and systemic racism and inequality – the American Bar Association honored Professor Cook as One of 21 Lawyers Leading America into the 21st Century, citing his “unique synergy of thought and action.”

He is a national officer of the nation’s oldest community development organization, the Community Development Society, and is a member of the International Association of Community Development. He practices and lives in the Washington D.C. area where he is presently spearheading an innovative community development initiative to build cooperative ecosystems.

The Glories of Student Cooperative Housing

Many years ago, I was lucky to live in The Co-op (officially known as the University Cooperative Housing Association, UCHA) in Westwood, only two blocks from UCLA campus. Aside from being an amazingly affordable and fun place to live, UCHA was one of the first desegregated student housing communities in the nation. See the paragraph on Westwood and UCHA below. The Co-op is thriving today and still requires residents to work a four-hour chore shift per week.

Color of law cooperative

Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

What we know today about the commons economy

The proposal of this paper is to present a summary of ten years of research at the P2P Foundation, including by our own P2P Lab but also by our partners in common research programs, of what we know today about the emerging commons economy. It includes a basic account of why the ‘invention’ of the blockchain has been important, but stresses that the needed distributed ledgers may take other forms in the future. This section may not offer a lot of new elements for those that are already technologically savvy about the topic, but it does offer a critical engagement with the qualities and flaws of the current model, and suggests how it can be tweaked and transformed, to also serve as a basis for a post-capitalist, commons-centric economy.

Read more here:

“Cooperative Cities” tomorrow @10:30am

SuttonTune in to WOL 1450 AM and Tune-in Radio, on March 12, at 10:30 am, ET, for Everything Co-op. This week Vernon interviews Stacey Sutton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. Vernon and Stacey will discuss her research on “Cooperative Cities,” and proven strategies to educate legislators on the potential impact of cooperatives on economic development.

Prof. Sutton is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA), at the University of Illinois Chicago. Sutton’s research focuses on the solidarity economy specifically worker-owned cooperatives, community economic democracy, community land trusts, and equitable development strategies. In a recent study, Prof. Sutton examines how twelve cities are creating municipal enabling environments for worker-owned cooperatives, as well as potential limits of local state involvement in the cooperative movement.

Prof. Sutton has written on racial transition and gentrification, the Black exodus from Chicago, and why Black capitalism will not reduce the racial wealth gap. Her work has been published in top urban journals and policy reports. Prof. Sutton holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and in Sociology from Rutgers University, an MBA from New York University, and a BA from Loyola University in Baltimore.

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Recent Community Land Trust articles

Kristen A. Hackett, Deshonay Dozier, Mariya Marinova. 2019. “Community land trusts: releasing possible selves through stable affordable housing.” Housing Studies 34(1): 24-48.

Housing affordability – a long-standing issue for low-income households – is crucial for the flourishing of both households and communities. When housing is unaffordable, households struggle to attain and maintain housing, which negatively effects household well-being. Since the foreclosure crisis, community land trusts (CLTs) have emerged as a viable housing policy. Relying on quantitative and qualitative data collected by a Minneapolis-based CLT, this study examines the experiences of 91 CLT homeowners. Our analysis illustrates how the CLT’s institutional framework alters the political, economic, social and material relations that characterize the lives of these households to facilitate the provision of previously unavailable resources. Beyond indefinitely stabilizing households, this new arrangement of relations creates a foundation for the cultivation of ontological security and contributes to the opening up of possibilities and the unfolding of life in ways not previously possible.

Deborah G. Martin, Azadeh Hadizadeh Esfahani, Olivia R. Williams, Richard Kruger, Joseph Pierce, James DeFilippis. 2020. “Meanings of limited equity homeownership in community land trusts.” Housing Studies 35(3): 395-414.

Discourses regarding homeownership in the United States emphasize housing as an economic investment. This focus fosters a number of problems, including inflated housing values, increased segregation, economic divisions, and the foreclosure crisis. Community land trusts (CLTs) put land in a non-profit trust to keep it affordable long-term. We examine CLTs as affordable housing organizations where individual residents own homes in the trust and lease the land underneath from the CLT. Interviews of CLT homeowners and staff in Minnesota, USA, show that the use value of CLT housing creates opportunities for different life choices. CLT homeowners cite stability and autonomy as the primary benefits of homeownership. They expressed newfound confidence and freedom to pursue personal goals and live less restricted lives after moving into CLT homes, a finding also emphasized by CLT staff. Limited equity housing such as CLTs can both reinforce dominant meanings of homeownership as providing security and autonomy, while also fostering access and affordability for low-income residents.

New DC Limited-Equity Cooperatives Report

CNHED has a new report titled “Creating and Sustaining Limited Equity Cooperatives in the District of Columbia” with Kathryn Howell of VCU as one of the authors. The 2020 report discusses how LECs might be expanded in the District, knowing that “Limited Equity Cooperatives (LECs) provide a critical source of affordable homeownership, stable community networks, and political power in neighborhoods across the District of Columbia.” The report also refers to another interesting study titled “A Study of Limited-equity Cooperatives in the District of Columbia,” which examines 57 LECs and finds the overwhelming majority in stable or excellent shape. Learn more about LECs through these reports!

Creating-and-Sustaining-Limited-Equity-Cooperatives-in-Washington-DC_FINAL pdf

Review of Huron’s wonderful commons book

Today Washington, D.C., seems like a terrain of hyper-gentrification and widespread displacement. Yet D.C. has also been and continues to be at the forefront of grassroots experiments combating these destructive trends and creating new, democratic worlds. Amanda Huron, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary social sciences at the University of the District of Columbia, brings us into this on-going history in her new book, Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. Read the full book review published in Washington History (Fall 2019, volume 31 (1-2), pp. 100-101) here: Huron review.