Monday, May 10, 2021

Webinar to promote co-op business model

By Rhiannon Browning

            In an ideal world, workplaces would not be unfair. Each person would be treated with respect along with equal pay. There wouldn’t be one boss who yells at their staff. Everyone would be the boss.

            Co-operation Buffalo has hopes for the city to hop on board with the Worker Co-op Jumpstart Webinar.

            “The webinar is about four hours long and is for anyone interested in starting a worker co-op or wanting to be a part of one,” Michael Heubusch said, a cooperative development specialist for Co-operation Buffalo.

            Heubusch said the event will dig into both the business aspect of a worker co-op, along with the value side of it.

            That includes anti oppressiveness and how to handle conflict in an emotionally mature way. This tends to be an issue in many businesses that aren’t co-ops because there is typically one owner and several staff members who feel that they have been underpaid or taken advantage of.

            With a co-op, everyone is an owner, which leads to a less competitive workplace, Heubusch said.

            “We just want folks to leave with a better understanding of what the current economic landscape is, how co-ops fit into that landscape, how to start one up and then how to maintain it,” Heubusch said.

            The non-profit organization, began in 2014 created by Andrew Delmonty, the program director. Heubusch and Delmonty were the only two full time employees at the time.

            Their mission? Providing guidance to beginner co-ops and financially helping businesses without the fear of paying back hefty loans.

            Co-operation Buffalo is a member of Seed Commons, a national network that provides non-extractive loan-funds to small businesses.

            According to Co-operation Buffalo’s website, a must pass through the following to be accountable:

-       Shift economic control to communities.

-       Democratize wealth and the workplace.

-       Advance ecological restoration.

-       Drive racial justice and social equity.

-       Relocalize most production and consumption.

-       Retain and restore cultures and traditions.

            At this time Co-operation Buffalo is still in the start-up phase, and a major project in the books.

            In 2017, the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center, 257 Lafayette Ave., used the help of Co-operation Buffalo and is now a fully functioning worker co-op. Theresa DiMuro-Wilber, a co-owner,  said that since becoming a worker co-op, the daycare has been based around fairness and guidance. She is grateful for Co-operation Buffalo.

            “Co-operation Buffalo helped us to create our new business model, shepherded us through changes to our decision-making processes which included giving all employees a voice, and stood by us through the entire transformation,” DiMuro-Wilber said.

           The Worker Co-op Jumpstart is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 22.  The webinar is free.