The City of Madison has awarded funding for an alliance of community-based organizations, labor groups, and cooperative developers to create a program that will establish worker-owned cooperatives in Madison. The initiative is designed to promote democratic workplaces, reduce income and racial inequalities, and build economic opportunity within the city’s underrepresented communities.
“This has been a truly collaborative effort among key community groups and the City of Madison to create sustainable economic models rooted in our communities,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. “We are deeply grateful to the Common Council for their belief in the cooperative approach.”
The City of Madison requested bids for the Cooperative Enterprises for Job Creation and Business Development Program earlier this year. Two dozen organizations came together as the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC) to create a proposed design for the program. Cooperative Network, Wisconsin’s statewide association for cooperative businesses and a member of the coalition, was awarded the contract in late October as the program’s fiscal agent.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has expressed his commitment to ensuring the project has an impact on the entire city.
“Business cooperatives create inclusive, living-wage jobs that grow economic equality in communities,” Soglin said. “The City of Madison is investing in the future economy by helping to create an ongoing, strong, network of support and financing for workers looking to own their own businesses and business owners looking to retire who would like to sell their business to their employees. These projects will create more opportunities for economic equality for all Madisonians.”
Each of MCDC’s three partner groups has a critical role in the initiative. Community organizations will identify interested workers and community business needs, provide culturally relevant materials and training, and assist cooperatives in their development. Labor partners will carry out industry, value chain, and community assessments; incorporate education into existing trainings and apprenticeship programs; and provide new co-ops with union resources and benefits. With the expertise of local cooperative developers, MCDC will create a comprehensive infrastructure for emerging cooperatives to receive technical assistance throughout the entire development process.
“The peer mentoring component will help ensure the city’s investment has a lasting benefit for all involved,” said Tania Ibarra, an MCDC member who represents the Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison. “I am hopeful this program will not only help retain jobs in the area, but also build capacity in communities that historically have not participated in these opportunities.”
Eric S. Upchurch II, a representative of the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, Opportunity Inc., and the Chamber for Black Economic Empowerment, is equally confident in the program’s potential.
“This represents a groundbreaking, collaborative development model that is already becoming an example for communities across the nation,” said Upchurch, a member of MCDC’s steering committee. “Through this innovative approach, we hope to build ties, break down cultural barriers, and drive cooperative development in a way that best serves the individuals and families this program is meant to serve.”
MCDC encourages the community’s involvement and support for this groundbreaking effort. Please contact Tom Liebe at Cooperative Network or Anne Reynolds at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives to learn more.
About Madison Cooperative Development Coalition
The Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC) is an alliance of community-based organizations, labor groups, and cooperative developers focused on supporting the creation of worker-owned cooperatives in Madison, Wisconsin. It was formed with a common purpose of promoting democratic workplaces, reducing income and racial inequalities, and building economic opportunity within the city’s underrepresented communities.
MCDC Participants, Supporters, and Partners
Centro Hispano of Dane County
Chamber for Black Economic Empowerment
Democracy at Work Network
Heartland Credit Union
Interpreters’ Cooperative of Madison
Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County
Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison
Madison Development Corporation
Northside Planning Council
Operation Welcome Home
Shared Capital Cooperative
SMART Local 18 and Local 565
South Central Federation of Labor
Workers’ Rights Center
University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives
Young Gifted and Black Coalition
MCDC Interim Steering Committee
Tom Liebe, Cooperative Network
Kevin Gundlach, South Central Federation of Labor
Tania Ibarra, Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison
Martha Kemble, MadWorC
Anne Reynolds, University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives
Charity Schmidt, South Central Federation of Labor
Eric S. Upchurch II, Chamber for Black Economic Empowerment