2011 Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy
Connecting Our Workplaces; Building Cooperative Economies
July 8 – 10, 2011
The Eastern Coordinating Council (ECC) is the governing body of the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD) and is tasked with selecting a conference site every two years. In 2011 we chose Baltimore, Maryland, for several reasons. First, geographically it is between large centers of worker cooperative and workplace democracy activity in New England and southern areas including Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Virginia, and other southern states. It is a goal of the ECC to help organize the south by incorporating southern voices into the ECWD and locating in Baltimore was seen as a way to do that.
Second, Baltimore has a lot of grassroots political and economic justice activity in the area. In addition, the local hosts in Baltimore provided an excellent opportunity to showcase Baltimore's alternative economies led by worker cooperatives, democratic workplaces, and other organizations and businesses in the movement. In particular, we hoped Red Emma's Bookstore and 2640 (worker-owned) could be possible host venues for the conference. In addition, we thought Baltimore BUILD and the ESOP Maryland Brush Company, as well as area worker cooperatives like Glut Food Co-op and Sligo Computers would be able to join the conference. Third, we had a connection to Sojourner Douglas College, a community-based institution of higher learning, through ONE DC (a racial and economic justice organization in DC), and thought that the College could also be a good venue for activities. Other exciting organizations in the area that led us to select Baltimore were Baltimore Algebra Project (a group of young people demanding higher quality math programs and other supports for public schools); nearby food cooperatives and food justice projects; Baltimore Bicycle Works; Just Walk dogwalking co-op; AK Press; and a number of other exciting initiatives.
Last, as a rust-belt, working-class city, we felt that Baltimore was an excellent location to build solidarity with unions and local workers. Since the 2009 Conference in Pittsburgh, the ECC convened a committee on union/co-op collaboration. Part of the committee's activities have included providing input on how the conference can explore work with unions and workers not traditionally familiar with co-ops.
The planning committee consisted of ECC voting members and alternates elected in Pittsburgh in 2009, plus those whose terms had not expired, as well as advisors.
ECC Members – Co-facilitators were Esther West, of Equal Exchange's Inter-faith program, and Andi Shively, of Third Coast Workers for Cooperation. This was the first year we had co-facilitators. Both were young, which has been the trend in recent years, and female with different but complementary skills. Esther and Andi split tasks such that initially Esther facilitated monthly planning calls and Andi took notes and managed administrative and other organizational duties. However, closer to the conference the co-facilitators' duties increased with both participating on Hub calls with conference staff organizers, and Andi taking care of whatever needed to be done as it arose. The co-facilitators were instrumental in ensuring tasks were carried through and exemplary in ensuring critical tasks were accomplished.
Co-Host And Embedded Conference
Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) ran an embedded conference on Friday, July 8th, at Sojourner Douglas College on the topic “Worker Cooperative Development Models.” GEO also ran a print edition to commemorate the embedded conference. Print copies are available from GEO at: http://www.geo.coop/store.
The embedded conference looked at various models for worker co-op development. Intentions were expressed to carry ideas from the embedded conference to the Western Worker Co-op Conference in the fall of 2011, and the U.S. Federation for Worker Co-ops Conference in the summer of 2012, and perhaps to the Canadian Federation for Worker Co-ops Conference in October 2011. Some believe the embedded conference will be a key moment in the history of the movement because people were able to honestly discuss problems and concerns about various development models. Continuing conversation will add strength to emerging ideas.
National Organization Annual Meeting
The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives held its annual membership meeting immediately following the conclusion of ECWD 11. This was the first year the Federation held its annual membership meeting, which occurs every year, in conjunction with ECWD. Consistent with previous years, the Federation holds its annual conference in even years, with the Eastern and Western Conferences holding their conferences in odd years.
ECWD 11 staff members began working with the Eastern Coordinating Council in October of 2010. Neily Jennings and Esteban Kelly brought superb planning and administrative skills and years of experience organizing NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation) conferences to bear with ECWD. This was the first year ECWD had co- lead organizers. We definitely benefited!
In addition to Neily and Esteban, prior Lead Organizer Mary Hoyer served as Consulting Advisor. Closer to the conference date, Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo was brought on as assistant organizer.
2011 was the first time we had really active committees taking responsibility for various aspects of the conference. The following committees contributed a great deal to the conference.
Hiring Committee - This committee developed the contracts for the Co-Lead Organizers and the Consulting Advisor during the late spring and summer of 2010.
Hub Committee – This committee consisted of the Co-Lead Organizers, the Consulting Advisor, and the ECC Co-Facilitators. The group met monthly by conference call.
Host Committee - Red Emma’s and 2640 were key with in-kind donations and organizing work. Support was organized locally by the host committee, led by Esteban Kelly and Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo.
Fundraising Committee - The Fundraising Committee included co-chairs Andi Shively and Ted De Barbieri and committee members Mary Hoyer, Becca Koganer, and Jessica Gordon Nembhard.
A full list of funding sponsors includes the following:
Patrons ($2000 or more)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Sponsors ($1500 to $1999)
Fund for Democratic Communities
Contributors ($500 to $1499)
Cooperative Home Care Associates
GAIA Host Collective
Grassroots Economic Organizing
National Co-op Business Association
Ohio Employee Ownership Center
Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaic
UMBC Office of the President
Supporters (up to $499)
Audre Lorde Project
Cabot Creamery Cooperative
Common Ground Center
Community Builders Cooperative
Cooperative Development Institute
Cooperative Fund of New England
Glut Food Co-op
Red Sun Press
South Mountain Company
Union for Radical Political Economics
Movement Builders (individuals contributing $5 to $100)
Jenna Peters Golden
Don Thomases Ed Whitfield
The Conference attracted many new participating organizations as well as many experienced groups of worker cooperators. The Conference reaches out to new and young folks wanting to find a better way to work. We’ve been quite successful in outreach, growth, and diversity regarding our participant base.
There was strong involvement from local co-ops and others, which was a great success. Many of the groups from the Baltimore Host Committee turned out in significant numbers. From Baltimore Brush Company to Red Emma's, there was significant diversity among local attendees. In addition, groups from Washington, D.C.--including Latino Economic Development Corporation, Jobs and Justice for Janitors, and ONE DC—attended.
We held our first walking tour (is this true?) conducted by Just Walk Co-op. It included stops at Baltimore Bicycle Works, a co-op music venue (name?), Baltimore Free School, and Red Emma's books and cafe. In addition, there was a bus tour with stops including Maryland Brush Company, AK Press, Real Food Farm, and Sojourner-Douglass College.
We provided formal Spanish language interpretation for the first time with headsets donated by Audre Lorde Project in NYC. Leonard Morin and Alvaro de Prat provided interpretation to the twenty or so Spanish-language participants throughout the conference.
Our Friday night Showcase at the 2640 venue was highly successful, and the first time the event was organized by a local group, held at a co-op space, and organized and catered by a co-op. John Duda hosted and emceed the event. Red Emma's staff provided the food. John Duda and other local members of the Host Committee were instrumental in pulling it off.
Melissa Hover delivered the Keynote speech early on Saturday morning. Her gift for telling a compelling narrative and zeal for cooperatives made for a gripping talk. Neily Jennings and Esteban Kelly said: "Melissa walked us through the roots and origins of our movement, not as a cheerleading strategy, but as a way of grounding those of us who were new, while celebrating those of us who have been around and put in a lot of sweat and conference calls over the years. By time she vocalized the question of leveling up it rang with a poignant sense of purpose and urgency. A masterstroke."
For a powerpoint of Melissa's presentation please see the ECWD website.
Our Plenary was titled Building Cooperative Economies: Trends in Worker Co-op Development. Moderated by Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo, the panel featured LaKeisha Wolf from Ujamaa Collective, Ajamu Nangwaya from the University of Toronto, Vanessa Bransburg from the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Brooklyn, and Ted De Barbieri from Urban Justice Center in NYC. The panel discussed different trends in developing co-ops in diverse communities, including racial minorities, and among immigrant non-English speakers.
Workshop topics ranged from a multi-part workshop on co-op development, to using social media, marketing, and interfaith issues in cooperative development. We had our first social media workshop done as an in kind donation by DeeNice.
For the second time there was a conference booklet put together through large part by Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo. It incorporated local art, and Collective Copies provided excellent production at significant discount to the Conference.
Translation (mentioned above), Child Care – Provided by Kidz City, did an excellent job during the workshops and other events. Thank you!
Joe Rinehart and Rebekah Hanlon were our auctioneers. Sasha Hammad organized auction items.
Elections were held at the Business Meeting. The results were as follows:
Voting Members (alphabetical)
Sarah Assefa (through 2013)
Colleen Gorman (through 2015)
Joe Rhinehart (through 2015)
Swameca Seals (through 2015)
Andi Shively (through 2013)
Esther West (through 2013)
Ed Whitfield (through 2015)
Alternates (in order)
Ted De Barbieri (through 2013)
Ashley Hernandez (through 2015)
Libertie Valance (through 2015)
Becca Koganer (through 2015)
Christopher DeAngelis (through 2015)
Thomas Beckett (through 2015)
Thank you to everyone who attended. We look forward to working with you going forward.
Significant effort goes into reporting on the Conference, as well as evaluating workshops, logistics, and other Conference-related activities. Neily and Esteban have prepared an extensive report. The ECC is working to analyze statistics for attendance, and to aggregate feedback obtained in the evaluations. We hope these tools will help develop and grow the Conference and ensure it meets the needs of those who continue to attend.
The Co-op Movement - Accessible? : An Interview with Jessica Gordon Nembhard, July 15, 2011,http://indyreader.org/content/co-op-movement-accessible-interview-jessica-gordon-nembhard
Quilted and Just Walk - Conversations at the 2011 Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy, July 19, 2011,
Conversations at ECWD: Michael Johnson from Grassroots Economic Organizing, August 7, 2011,
The Media Co-op By DRU
Baltimore Workplace Democracy Diary, July 12, 2011, http://www.mediacoop.ca/blog/dru/7761
SOCIAL MEDIA – THANKS to Joe Rinehart this was the first year we went Facebook. Joe and Ajowa added content.