Friday Keynote: Worker Cooperatives and Resistance Movements: Building Power Together

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This year’s conference theme of “Resist and Transform” focuses on the potential for cooperatives to be a tool for both resistance in these volatile times as well as a building block for transforming our economy and society.  Moderated by Jessica Gordon-Nembhard who has researched the historical relationship between social movements and worker cooperatives, specifically in the African American community, the speakers on this panel will explore the relationship between resistance movements and worker cooperatives both historically and in our current times.  How do current movements see worker cooperatives as a solution to modern challenges?  How can the worker cooperative community begin to see ourselves as a powerful voice in American political movements? We will hear from activists and cooperators from the Movement for Black Lives who will explore how and why the movement incorporated worker cooperatives into their recently released their “Vision For Black Lives” policy platform, from those active in the struggle for immigrant justice, a struggle that has been at the forefront of the coop movement, and explore how to build stronger ties to the traditional Labor movement as well as learn lessons from their experience of creating a powerful force in American politics.  


  • Elandria Williams

    Elandria Williams

    Elandria Williams is on the Education team at the Highlander Research and Education Center, a social justice and movement leadership, strategy and cultural center, where she has worked since 2007. Elandria helps co-coordinate the Economics and Governance program at Highlander and is a co-editor of Beautiful Solutions. Beautiful Solutions is a project that is gathering some of the most promising and contagious stories, solutions, strategies and big questions for building a more just, democratic, and resilient world. Elandria also serves on the boards of the Southern Reparations Loan Fund (SRLF), US Solidarity Economy Network, Appalachian Studies Association, is a founding member of the Black Immigration Network and on the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table. Highlander also is an anchor for the Media Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) and doing some work around Movement Technologists.
  • Ellen Vera

    Ellen Vera

    Ellen is the Director of Development and Co-op Organizing for the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI). Through CUCI Ellen has developed worker owned cooperatives for the past 6 years, focusing on the food sector. She has also worked as a labor organizer for 10 years, most recently as the National Organizing Coordinator for the manufacturing arm of the Communication Workers of America and 9 years for the United Food and Commercial Workers. Ellen has an MBA from Northern Kentucky University. She is passionate about creating family sustaining worker owned businesses, and her strengths lie in overseeing the cooperative development process including the feasibility study and business plan, the capitalization campaign, community engagement, and the initial management of cooperative enterprises.
  • Jessica Gordon Nembhard

    Jessica Gordon Nembhard

    Author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice and 2016 inductee into the U.S. Cooperative Hall of Fame (, Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Ph.D., is a political economist and university professor in the CUNY system; and a co-op educator, advocate and researcher. Jessica is a co-founder of the ECWD, the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and The Democracy Collaborative; and a member of Grassroots Economic Organizing Collective, the Association of Cooperative Educators, The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, The Southern Grassroots Economies Project, the Canadian Association for the Study of Co-operation, and the Research Committee of the International Cooperative Alliance. She is the proud mother of Susan and Stephen, and the grandmother of Stephon and Hugo Nembhard.
  • Ligia Guallpa

    Ligia Guallpa

    Ligia Guallpa, the daughter of a former day laborer and garment worker, is the Executive Director of Workers Justice Project (WJP), a community-based building, workers’ rights organization that is winning better working conditions for low-wage immigrant workers. At WJP, Ms. Guallpa has spearheaded efforts to ensure safe and dignified jobs for NYC’s 2,000 day laborers, construction workers, and domestic workers. Through her leadership, WJP played a key role in the creation of a new union, Laborers’ Local 10, built an alternative economic model to transform the conditions for female day laborers in the house cleaning industry, and enforced higher wages and safety standards in the post Hurricane Sandy reconstruction. Ms. Guallpa’s work has been covered on Univision and in publications like The Nation, New York Daily News, and The New York Times.
  • Sheila Quintana

    Sheila Quintana

    Sheila Quintana is a migrant justice community organizer based in Philly. She works at the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia and is a member of a media-makers' cooperative with the Media Mobilizing Project.
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