Will the U.S. Government Legislate Cooperative Development?

Peter Frank

Support Passage of the National Cooperative Development Act!

Congressman Chaka Fattah (second from left) visiting the offices of Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) in New York City. Featured in this picture are Congressman Fattah, CHCA President Michael Elsas along with four home health aides – Isabel Manjarrez, Margarita Pillot, Marva Diggins, and Gail Porter

As cooperators across the US celebrate the International Year of the Cooperative, many are looking for tangible ways to build on this historic year to grow and sustain the cooperative movement for years to come. A key priority identified by the IYC Steering Committee in the US is to focus on securing legislation and policies, enhancing access to capital, and delivering “legacy” projects and programs. Historic legislation introduced in the House of Representatives last December aims to do just that.

"It's high time for cooperatives -- a great idea that has emerged from and gained success in our urban neighborhoods as well as rural communities – to move onto the national radar,” said Congressman Chaka Fattah representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd District in Philadelphia, who with the support of the National Cooperative Business Association and Cooperation Works, introduced the National Cooperative Development Act (HR 3677). “This legislation brings federal resources and a policy priority to the effort."

If passed, NCDA will “create, in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a National Development Center for Co-ops so we can grow co-ops and provide technical assistance to the co-op movement.”

The new act targets underserved communities for job creation by promoting cooperative business development. Provisions include:

  • The establishment of a National Cooperative Development Center to administer the program;
  • Grants to local cooperative development centers to provide technical assistance to co-ops;
  • Loans and seed capital to groups forming co-ops;
  • Funding for professional development training for technical assistance providers; and
  • Authorization of $25 million yearly for four years.

Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond, CA, at Mondragon Cooperative Corporation’s offices where she visited to learn about worker cooperatives to help alleviate economic hardship in her city. (photo: Marilyn Langlois)

The legislation’s introduction is a significant achievement on its own, but not an achievement that satisfies the need to fund co-op development in underserved communities. The Campaign for Cooperation has been organizing to rally support for the passage of the National Cooperative Development Act. The Campaign supported the bill’s introduction by recruiting initial co-sponsors with the help of cooperators across the country.

Co-op supporters responded immediately to the campaign’s initial calls to action. Each advocated in very different ways; from a simple phone call and email exchange, to in-person meetings with a delegation, to calling to action an entire region of contacts - helping others organize meetings. These actions by a wide variety of co-op owners, supporters, and developers in Maine, Washington state, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Oakland, Pennsylvania, Detroit, Minnesota, and elsewhere directly resulted in the successful recruitment of nine co-sponsors. Among them Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif; and Congressman Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania.

“Cooperatives are a strong business model for job growth in this troubled economy and are powerful tools to building prosperous communities," said Lee, an original sponsor of the bill, and who represents a district with the country’s largest concentration of worker cooperatives. "The Bay Area continues to benefit from the economic development generated by cooperatives.”

Throughout 2012, the Campaign for Cooperation will continue to organize the national co-op community to recruit co-sponsors.

We begin 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives in a great place. We have legislation with growing support from members of Congress, and growing interest from individuals and organizations that advocate for cooperatives.

Please consider calling your Member of Congress, and arrange a meeting to educate them about the amazing things you're co-ops do in their district. Tell them about the kinds of projects that could be supported with the program proposed in the National Cooperative Development Act. Most importantly, ask them to become a co-sponsor.

Find your Representative's contact info at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml. Join the campaign email list, read the legislation and other supporting materials at www.campaign.coop.


 

About the author: 

Peter Frank is supporting a variety of cooperative efforts locally, regionally, and nationally. He is on the board of a food co-op start-up in Philadelphia, a co-founder of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, and has been working with the Cooperation Works! - Urban Circle to promote and support cooperative development in urban communities. As Advocacy Coordinator, Peter is working to support passage of the National Cooperative Development Act.   

 

Citations: 
When citing this article, please use the following format: Peter Fank (2012). Will the U.S. Government Legislate Cooperative Development?. Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 12. http://geo.coop/...
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