Friday, February 26, 2016

Berkeley votes to boost co-op economy

in the face of gentrification in this article. Some excerpts:

"This month, Berkeley joined a growing number of cities across the country that are making it easier for co-ops to create jobs like Goldsmith’s. On February 9, the city council passed a resolution requiring Berkeley to create an ordinance supporting worker-owned co-ops. The ordinance will institute tax and land-use incentives for co-ops, create educational support materials for current and potential worker-owners, and make it easier for the city to spend its procurement dollars with cooperative businesses—something no other city has done (Oakland is considering a similar ordinance). To make co-ops more competitive in the bidding process and direct more money to them, the city plans to discount their bids before evaluating them, while still paying the co-ops their full asking price."

"The resolution, slated for approval in December 2015, was pushed to February 2016 due to concerns from others on the council that it might require too much additional work for city staff and give worker co-ops an unfair advantage over other small, local businesses. 'Worker cooperatives are small local businesses but the benefits they provide are above and beyond what other small businesses provide,' said Eskandari-Qajar, who argues that in addition to giving workers more decision-making power, co-ops generally pay higher wages and have better working conditions. She said that Arizmendi co-ops pay workers double the industry standard."

"The incentives wouldn’t be given to co-ops blindly either, Eskandari-Qajar said. The ordinance will create a tiered level of incentives that give preference to businesses that add value to the community. In other words, a co-op that gives back—whether it’s by hiring minorities, giving workers full benefits, or something else—would receive preference over a co-op that does not. Eskandari-Qajar has found that, once the benefits are laid out, the idea of cooperatives resonates with people across the political spectrum, including the Berkeley councilmembers who were undecided."

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