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     This issue focuses on the 2nd National Conference of Democratic Workplaces in NYC last October. About 300 people from more than 100 different co-ops and support groups attended.

     Overviews of the conference are provided below by federation staffer Melissa Hoover   and by Len Krimerman.   Chris Heneghan writes about  the Boston Workers Alliance   and John W. Lawrence  fills us in on the  presentations about  sources of capital  for cooperatives.  Len also comments on the Canadian Worker Co-op  Conference in November  There is a separate discussion of  that  conference by Chris McCarville.

     The NY conference was  primarily about  U.S. co-ops,  yet it also had an international flavor.  The welcome meeting was held at Colors, a new cooperative restaurant in  Manhattan. Many of its  worker-owners are recent immigrants.  Colors was organized by the  Restaurant Opportunities Center, with help from a $500,000 investment from a group of Italian cooperative food service enterprises.  Spanish-English translation was provided  by members of the Rhode Island-based Connections  Co-op. 

       The conference held several plenary sessions including Rick Surpin’s keynote address   as well as  numerous workshops including “Co-ops and Social Movements,” “Rebuilding New Orleans in the African-American Cooperative Tradition,”  “Confronting Internalized Oppression: Fostering Leadership among Marginalized Groups,”  and  “Unions and Worker Cooperatives”.

       Regional federations represented were: Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives,  Valley Alliance of Worker  Co-ops (MA),  Boston Workers Cooperative Network, Portland Area Workers Cooperatives,  Eastern Conference for Worker Democracy, Federation of Southern Cooperatives,   Federation of Workplace Democracies (MN)  and South Sound Cooperatives (WA).

        Two large firms  participating were Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) and Equal Exchange, both in business for 20 years or more, both with sales over $20 million.  CHCA, a  NY home care agency, provides work for over 1000 people. Its workforce consists primarily of Black and Latina women. Equal Exchange is a Boston area fair trade  co-op  that buys coffee, tea and chocolate from 30 farmer co-ops in 15 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  

     International  participants included members of the “recuperated factories” movement in Argentina, two from the Venezuelan Cooperative for Social Services, and  one from the Canadian Federation of Worker Cooperatives. $15,000 in travel support was donated by the Venezuelan petroleum corporation, CITGO

     The final conference session featured a showing of the Avi Lewis and Naomie Klein film, “The Take,” about the takeover of Argentine factories abandoned by their owners and converted to worker self-management when Argentina’s economy collapsed several years ago.    

         GEO editors were present at the conference, where we talked about future directions for this publication, a discussion to be continued at our  winter editorial retreat.  Concerns include how to reach out to more people with the cooperative message, and how to use our limited resources most effectively.


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