100 Attend Conference at Southern New Hampshire University
By Jessica Gordon Nembhard
2005 was a record breaking year for the 3rd annual meeting of worker cooperatives and worker-owned companies and their supporters in Manchester, NH on the campus of the Southern New Hampshire University, hosted by SNHU’s School of Community Economic Development. The Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD) had more worker-owned business sponsors than ever before, more workshops offered than ever before; and more worker-owners nominated and elected to the board, the Eastern Coordinating Council (ECC). Participants came from as far south as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Epes Alabama, and Little Grill Restaurant in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to as far north as Rising Tide Cooperative in Atlantic Canada and the Canadian Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Ontario branch. The bulk of participants were from New England, with additional representation from along the Eastern seaboard. In addition, it was a record conference because the auction raised the most money ever - $2004.50 for scholarships to the 4th ECWD in 2007 (almost double what was raised at the second conference in 2003). Susan Halevi Verran (Boston) agreed to coordinate the auction again; and Loren Rodgers (Ownership Associates) was auctioneer again, this year with assistance from Ethan Miller (GEO).
The conference took place from July 15-17, 2005. This year’s theme was "Growing Stronger Together," to continue the momentum from the first national conference that took place in Minneapolis in May 2004. As usual, the conference had three major "tracks" – introduction to worker ownership; "nuts and bolts" education workshops on management, finance, and marketing; and movement building (strengthening the movement). In addition there were "open space" slots available during every workshop session and participants created their own sessions including topics such as "creating on-line communities," a report from France, and forming a Washington, DC metro area network of worker-owned companies.
William Greider, national affairs correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of The Soul of Capitalism, was the keynote speaker. He discussed the importance of the worker ownership movement and the example set by companies such as the ones in attendance.
The offer from Professor Christina Clamp to hold the conference at SNHU was accepted in great part because of the university’s School of Community Economic Development and co-op curriculum. Planners thought this would be an opportunity to discuss the relationship between worker ownership and community economic development, and a way to further include cooperative scholars. On the afternoon of the first day this goal was realized with a plenary session on "The Role of Workplace Democracy in the Community Economic Development Movement." Presenters were Michael Swack of SNHU’s School of Community Economic Development; Jessica Gordon Nembhard of GEO Newsletter and University of Maryland, College Park; Dominic Moulden of Manna Community Development Corporation, Washington, DC, and ICA Group; and Paul Millman, Chroma Technology Corporation. Chris Clamp was the moderator. Presenters agreed that community economic development is richer and more meaningful when the principles of workplace democracy and worker ownership are practiced, and gave examples from history and their own organizations of how to two interact and strengthen one another.
Two business meetings were held and decisions were made about how the ECWD would proceed in the coming years. Participants agreed to extend an invitation to the Southern Region to hold a joint east coast conference in 2007; and to vigorously pursue such a collaboration. Elections were held. The new board of 7 members and 4 alternates is composed of: Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo (GEO, and eastern representative to the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives); Lynn Benander (Co-op Life, Greenfield, MA); Sue Bob (Community Builders Cooperative, Boston); Terry Daniels (Long Island Home Builders); Aaron Dawson (Equal Exchange, West Bridgewater, MA); Jessica Gordon Nembhard (GEO); Doug Woodhouse (Little Grill Collective); and alternates Adam Trott (Collective Copies, Amherst); Charles Uchu Strader (GAIA Host, Schutsbury, MA); Noemi Giszpenc (Ownership Associates, Boston); and Jeremy Thaler (Once Again Nut Butter, NY).
Participants gave thanks to the outgoing board and advisors and elected a 7 new board members and four alternates: : Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo (GEO, and eastern representative to the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives); Lynn Benander (Co-op Life, Greenfield, MA); Sue Bob (Community Builders Cooperative, Boston); Terry Daniels (Long Island Home Builders); Aaron Dawson (Equal Exchange, West Bridgewater, MA); Jessica Gordon Nembhard (GEO); Doug Woodhouse (Little Grill Collective); and alternates Adam Trott (Collective Copies, Amherst); Charles Uchu Strader (GAIA Host, Schutsbury, MA); Noemi Giszpenc (Ownership Associates, Boston); and Jeremy Thaler (Once Again Nut Butter, NY).Include the citation below and GEO Newsletter grants permission to copy, use, and distribute this article.
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