The Green Collar Community

EBCLC Hosts Fourth Installment of “Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker Owned Business”


On Saturday, April 19th, the Green-Collar Communities Clinic (GC3) of the East Bay Community Law Center and the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) hosted the fourth “Think Outside the Boss” Workshop. This year’s Workshop also marked the launch of a year-long grant to create a “Blueprint for Worker-Ownership in the East Bay,” funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The “Blueprint” grant funded a Cooperative Academy that will include a twelve-week curriculum providing participants with an integrated course covering the theory and practice of cooperative enterprise, followed by intensive business and legal coaching.

Debbie Li, GC3 law clerk, discusses securities laws and cooperatives.

Think Outside the Boss is geared towards providing an introduction to the law and business issues related to worker-owned cooperatives. Almost all of the forty-plus people who gathered at the Eastside Arts Alliance, a community space in the San Antonio district of Oakland, were planning to start worker-owned cooperatives or were already members of them.

Sushil Jacob, GC3 director and Staff Attorney, introduced the audience to the principles and history of cooperatives and discussed several examples of successful worker-owned enterprises, such as the Mondragon Corporation in Spain, the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio, and The Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley. Jane Ehinger, the GC3 legal fellow, described for-profit entity types and explained what aspiring worker-owned cooperatives should think about when selecting an entity type and engaging in preliminary business planning.

Rory Collins, Amy Tu and Debbie Li, law clerks at GC3 and law students at Berkeley Law, presented on topics including: what to consider when deciding between forming a nonprofit and forming a cooperative, employment law issues specific to worker-owned cooperatives, and securities law issues that arise when raising capital for cooperatives.

Ricardo Nuñez, Legal Services and Cooperatives Program Director at SELC, shared advice on how to govern a worker-owned cooperative once it has been formed. Janelle Orsi, Executive Director of SELC, used creative cartoons to depict how money flows through a cooperative.

Miriam Joffe-Block from One PacificCoast Bank provided an overview of how to finance a worker-owned cooperative and explained what lenders take into consideration when reviewing a business loan applicant.

In the second part of the workshop, participants attended breakout sessions that delved further into specific law and business topics and allowed participants to ask questions and receive tailored information. The breakout session topics included bank loans and business plans, advice from current worker-members of cooperatives, legal questions and answers, bookkeeping and accounting, and Co-Op “Speed Dating.”

If you’d like more information on how to participate in the Cooperative Academy check out the application on the SELC website.

If you missed the Workshop, or you want to review what you learned, check out the videos of the first “Think Outside the Boss” Workshop and SELC’s cooperatives page. And watch for the fifth “Think Outside the Boss” Workshop, coming in Fall 2015!

GC3 and SELC would like to thank Eastside Arts Alliance, Project Equity, Bicycle Coffee and Arizmendi Bakery for their generous support of the Workshop.

From left to right: Ricardo Nuñez, Julia Stephanides, Rory Collins, Sushil Jacob, Jane Ehinger, Debbie Li, Amy Tu, Lee Simmons and Janelle Orsi

Rory Collins is a law clerk at GC3 and a second-year law student at Berkeley Law.