The Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in New York City, June 9-11th, brought together worker-owners, co-op developers, advocates, lenders, and organizers for learning, networking, and movement building. CDI Staff, Contractors and Board Members were well represented this year at the conference offering a range of workshops and participating in many sessions. NYC has had many worker cooperatives over the years and is home to the largest worker cooperative in the country, Cooperative Homecare Associates with over 2000 worker-owners. In recent years, the number of worker cooperatives has rapidly increased thanks to the support from the city of New York and a dense ecosystem of support for cooperatives. Board Member, Emma Yorra, has been at the forefront of this work in NYC through her role as Co-Director of Cooperative Programs at the Center for Family Life.
BOS Program Director, Rob Brown, co-led a session with Mo Manklang of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and David Morgan from TESA (who CDI contracts with for communications support), about worker cooperative policy advocacy. The legislation that CDI has supported in Maine was highlighted alongside the advocacy efforts in Philadelphia and NYC. There was a discussion about how to grow advocacy efforts around the country and learn from our successes.
Cooperative Food Systems Director, Jonah Fertig, participated in a panel discussion on Saturday about cooperatives in new spaces and places where he shared with Mohamed Dekow, the Executive Director of Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization and a contractor with CDI, about the cooperative development work we’re engaged with in Lewiston. The next day, Jonah and Roodline Volcey from the Democracy at Work institute, facilitated a discussion on building urban and rural connections in the worker co-op movement. This rich discussion brought together people from urban and rural areas together to talk about how we can overcome divisions between our communities and grow a strong movement across this country.
CDI’s Senior Accountant, Alex Fischer of Open Bookkeeping, and others led a day-long session on Finance and Bookkeeping, a fun and informative workshop that helped members of worker cooperatives to learn more about finances and how they can engage their members in the financial health of the cooperative.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Resist and Transform” and throughout the three days, people shared inspiration, skills, and stories that demonstrated the struggles that we are engaged in and the possibilities we can create by working together in our cooperatives, communities and nationally. The conference helped to renew CDI’s commitment to strengthening our work in the Northeast by working with more communities, deepening our work within those communities, building strong cooperative networks and advocating for policies that support the growth of cooperatives.