Can Co-operatives Save Milwaukee?

Over the past decade, the Riverwest neighborhood has incubated a handful of small but exemplary cooperatives. People's Books (804 E. Center St.) converted from a sole proprietorship to a consumer-owned cooperative in 2007. In addition to selling books, it is home to an after-school program for neighborhood kids. The Riverwest Co-op & Cafe (801 E. Clarke St.) sells groceries and hot vegan and vegetarian meals and also has a volunteer team numbering over 100, including low-income teens and former prisoners who gain valuable skills running a grocery with annual revenues in the millions. The Riverwest Public House (815 E. Locust St.) is a tavern but it's also at the front of some of the most exciting movements in Milwaukee. The solar group purchasing programs that Mayor Barrett recently announced the expansion of began there in 2013, out of the Public House’s popular “Night School” series. Milwaukee River Advocates Cooperative is perhaps the only cooperatively-run advocacy group in the U.S. Right now the first cooperatively structured homeless drop-in center is being organized by the Step By Step Collective at the intersection of Holton and Center.

Milwaukee is doing a fair job at developing co-ops on a small scale, like the ones listed above, but it still lags behind other U.S. cities. We have both the resources, human power and the economic impetus to do so much more. The purchasing power of anchor institutions like Froedert and Columbia St. Mary’s could foster the foundation and growth of dozens of local worker-owned businesses. The same goes for the local colleges and universities, not to mention their capacity to educate students on the co-op structure.

Read the full article at Express Milwaukee


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