Connecting Our Workplaces: Building Cooperative Economies

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The Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy released its press release with all the details for it's July conference activities: 

2011 Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy | Connecting Our Workplaces: Building Cooperative Economies

The Eastern Coordinating Council is pleased to announce the 2011 Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD), to take place July 8-10, 2011 at University of Maryland, Baltimore County in partnership with the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and Grassroots Economic Organizing.

ECWD will bring together representatives of worker cooperatives, ESOP's, and other cooperatively-run organizations to strengthen the network of democratic workplaces in the Eastern United States. Through networking, seminars, tours, and storytelling, participants will exchange tools and solutions for democratic management and development of cooperative workplaces. We will share strategies for building systems for regional support and advocating for ourselves as we build momentum toward the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives.

This year's conference will explore the theme, "Connecting Our Workplaces: Building Cooperative Economies" and will feature a series of conversations evaluating various models for worker co-op development, facilitated by Grassroots Economic Organizing.  These conversations will culminate in a full-day embedded conference, "Advancing the Development of Worker Cooperatives," on Friday, July 8, as well as a plenary session and a report-back workshop on Saturday, July 9.


Melissa HooverUS Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Democracy at Work Institute, Arizmendi Association

Worker cooperatives are growing, there's no doubt about it. But what does it really mean to "Connect our Workplaces; Build Cooperative Economies?" Melissa Hoover offers one perspective from the first five years of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and asks some challenging questions about where we're going now.  Our work is difficult and messy, flawed and beautiful, and still the most inspiring work out there. This talk weaves together geography, history, hopefully poetry - and it happily smashes utopia to make room for more interesting and profound possibilities for workplace democracy.



Building Cooperative Economies: Trends in Worker Co-op Development


Ajowa Ifateyo, Grassroots Economic Organizing, ECWD, DAWN


Ted DeBarbieri, Urban Justice Center, ECWD: "Legal Structures for Worker Co-ops"

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Grassroots Economic Organizing, ECWD, CUNY: "Strengths and Weaknesses of Worker Co-op Development Models"

Ajamu Nangwaya, University of Toronto, Canadian Union of Public Employees, past employee at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Training Center: "The Challenges of Developing Worker Cooperatives in the South"

Vanessa Bransburg, Center for Family Life: "Challenges to Organizing Worker Cooperatives among Immigrant Groups"

LaKeisha Wolf, Ujamaa Collective; Enjoyourself: "Challenges of Women in Worker Cooperatives"



  • Connecting Within Great Swaths of the Nation: How Worker Owners Can Gather Without Bankrupting Their Cooperative (panel) Frank Adams & others
  • How to Bring Evergreen to Your Community Steve Dubb, Democracy Collaborative
  • The Role of Policy in Building Resources for Urban Cooperative Development (panel) moderated by Lisa Stolarski, Keystone Development Center, Cooperation Works! Member, Urban Circle Chair
  • Inter-workings, Advantages, and Challenges of Our Cooperatives: Communication, Decision Making and Relationship Building Center for Family Life Si Se Puede! Coop, Beyond Care Childcare Coop, Color Me! Coop
  • Lessons from Wisconsin: Worker Co-ops Defending Workers Rights John McNamara & Rebecca Kemble, USFWC
  • Interfaith Movement Building (panel) moderated by Esther West, Equal Exchange
  • Building a Co-op Economy through Grassroots Partnerships Deborah Olson, Center for Community Based Enterprise (C2BE) and employee ownership and co-op attorney
  • Putting Humanity Back in Human Resources Anti-Oppression Resource Training Alliance, Mariposa Food Co-op
  • Building Inclusive Board Practices: Elections, Governance, and Engaging Your Constituents Ole Olson, Isthmus Engineering
  • Co-op Development Foundations 1: Getting Organized & Feasibility Research Speakers TBA
  • Co-op Development Foundations 2: Choosing a Legal Structure & Business Planning Speakers TBA
  • Transitioning The Untapped Potential of Transferring Private Businesses to Worker Cooperatives Roy Messing, Ohio Employee Ownership Center
  • Building a Cooperative Media Network: Questions and Lessons for Participatory Democratic Journalism Dru Jay, Media Co-op
  • Toolbox for Education and Social Action Brian Van Slyke
  • Health & Retirement Benefits Mary Hoyer, Union Co-ops Committee
  • Organizational Evolution: Cultivating a Democratic Structure that Reflects Our Values Centre for Community Organizations, Montreal
  • Advancing the Development of Worker Co-ops Report-Back
  • Grassroots Economic Organizing
  • Finance for Worker-Owned Businesses Speaker TBA
  • Cooperative Networks Adam Trott and Erbin Crowell, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives
  • Technologies of Cooperation: Choosing Appropriate Ways to Collaborate from Post-Its to Videoconferencing Ben Mauer, Quilted
  • Broadening Ownership: The Joys and Challenges of Growth in a Worker Co-op Noemi Gizspenc, Cooperative Development Institute
  • Food Justice, Food Cooperatives, and Student-Run Businesses Speakers TBA
  • Marketing the Cooperative Model Andrea Cumpston, NCBA
  • Orientation and Ongoing Training in Democratic Workplaces

Special Attractions!

In addition to ongoing workshops, plenaries, and networking opportunities, there will be a number of special events throughout the weekend. 

Exploration! Friday will feature tours of democratic workplaces in Baltimore during the day.  Reserve your space when you register for the conference.

Showcase! Exciting and emerging projects will be featured during a Co-op Showcase as participants mingle and dine together at "2640," a cooperative events venue in downtown Baltimore. 

Networking! A tabling and networking café will be open throughout the weekend, industry caucuses will be held on Saturday afternoon, and open space will be available for impromptu meetings.

Leadership! The Eastern Coordinating Council, which oversees ECWD, will hold their business meeting on Saturday afternoon and the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives will hold their member meeting on Sunday afternoon.  Consider taking your cooperative leadership to the next level by attending one of these meetings. 

Celebration!  Saturday evening will feature a silent auction and evening entertainment on the campus of UMBC.

Registration Fees

Basic Registration is $250; sliding scale and group rates are listed on the website. Shared & single accommodations on campus are available starting at $60 for two nights.  General registration fees cover all sessions and meals beginning Friday evening and ending Saturday lunch.  Late registration fees apply after June 10. 


Visit for online registration and more information or contact ECWD organizers or 802.448.0972!


The Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD) is a non-profit cooperative organization established to aid in the continued growth of the workplace democracy movement. The ECWD is managed by the Coordinating Council, which is a group of worker-owners and members of support organizations that were elected by the general membership of the ECWD. The ECWD works in cooperation with the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives to promote and develop worker-owned enterprises regionally and nationally. The main work of the ECWD includes holding a conference every two years, in the Eastern United States, for the purpose of bringing together worker-owners, employees of democractically run ESOPs, companies and organizations that provide support to democractic workplaces, and anyone interested in the workplace democracy movement.

Neily JenningsECWD Co-Lead Organizer 802.448.0972 (US) | 514.433.6164 (Canada) | Montreal, QC
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