FIRE THE BOSS: Building Workers Democratic Cooperatives in South L.A.
by Mary Sutton, et al, Collective REMAKE
The un- and under-employment rate in the Black community, in LA, is over 50%. So for former prisoners, opportunities to work for a living wage here are scarce. The implementation of worker cooperatives can invigorate local economies in communities that are disenfranchised due to the loss of living wage jobs, defunded social programs, deteriorating schools, over-policing, and high rates of incarceration.
There is not enough support in L.A. for people when they come home from prison or jail. The lack of housing, economic support, job opportunities and wrap-around services guarantee that a large percentage of those coming home from lock-up will end up back inside. Worker cooperatives can provide a solution for people who historically experience life-long discrimination in the workforce because of their incarceration, as the workers inside the cooperative formulate their own hiring criteria. Around the world, there are successful examples of worker co-ops run by prisoners and former prisoners which can be duplicated in Los Angeles. Collective REMAKE will help fill that gap.
Collective Remake is looking forward to an active new year. In 2018, we accomplished many of our goals:
One of the biggest hurdles we got over was to become incorporated as a 501C(3). We are now a “legal” entity. Our bylaws lay out a democratic structure for the organization where all members have a equal vote in a decision making process.
We created a democratic board comprised of five amazing individuals who have completed the Cooperative Education and Development workshops or who work in South Los Angeles.
In 2018, Collective REMAKE was awarded 2nd year funding from the Black Equity Initiative/The JIB Fund to implement cooperative education and development programming.
Collective REMAKE members continue to collaborate with community partners to implement multiple series of Cooperative Education & Development workshops at different locations in Los Angeles county:
RCO Tires – August 2018; Alexandria House, a shelter for women – September 2018 – January 2019; The Community Healing and Trauma Center – scheduled for January – April 2019; Vermont-Slauson Economic Development Center – 2019.
For the second year, Collective REMAKE members and community partners held two 2-day seminars at Los Angeles Southwest College. We created two part-time worker positions and have set-up payroll.
Collective REMAKE members support three start-up Co-Ops (worker owned businesses): Recycle for Jobs, Worms 4 U, and Recycle for Art. Recycle for Jobs is a unique recycling Co-op with a vision of contracting with local businesses, churches, and local events that would allow us to pick up all CRV recyclables. We hope to pick up partners in the near future. Our long-term goal is to open a recycling center, incorporate the worm farm for biio-degradable, and do composting. Recycle for Jobs will take on worker owners that are formerly incarcerated and others from marginalized communities. Folks can make a living while practicing a democratic process.
Over the year, Collective REMAKE members participated in a number of educational opportunities to inform our work. We attended and/or participated in representations at the following:
The 2018 California Coop Conference – April 2018 – San Diego
The Climate Reality Conference August 2018 – Los Angeles
Left Coast Forum- August 2018 – Los Angeles
The Worker National Cooperative Conference – September 2018, Los Angeles
Gigi Breland is a Collective REMAKE Board member and worker who provides administrative and public outreach support. She is also on the start-up team for Recycle for Jobs. She says:
“I have been apart of this for two years now and through all the different workshops, seminars, trainings, and conferences I have learned so much, and there’s always more to learn. That is one of the most important things, the training where everyone learns what a democratic process means.
“Since becoming a part of Collective Remake, I have met a lot of very interesting people and have done some surreal things. Who would have thought with my past, my criminal record, that I could apply and be accepted to attend a 3 day Climate Reality Conference? The training was led by former Vice President Gore. Gore did many of the presentations himself over all 3 days. He really knows his stuff when it comes to the climate change. He got me really paying attention and I understand that it all fits right into my Recycling for Jobs cooperative.
“Every year, almost 13 million tons of plastic is discarded and ends up in the ocean. Recycle for Jobs is designed to prevent plastic and other containers getting into the waste and water streams while providing paid work for people in reentry. I get excited when I think about the future of a for real Co-Op (A worker owned business) I look forward to the day when we can obtain a truck for our pick-ups, take on partners, and eventually open up a Recycle for Jobs recycling center.” —Georgette Breland
We engage community partners to support our workshops. They provide facilitation, technical training, administrative support, legal consultation, business planning and financial literacy. Cooperative partners include Alexandria House; Arroyo S.E.C.O. Network of Time Banks; The Sustainable Law Group; Co-op LA; The LA Co-op LAB; Five Points Youth Foundation; Collective Avenue Coffee; the Los Angeles Union Cooperative Initiative (LUCI); Southern California Library; L.A. Southwest College, Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project, Solidarity Research Center; The Vermont-Slauson Economic Development Center; Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center, Semilla Cooperative, and more. We look forward to working with a broad network of cooperators in the coming year.
We hope that you can support us in this critical work! Go to httpss:// and click on Please Make a Donation to donate to our efforts via PayPal. Thanks!
Mary Sutton, MA Urban Sustainability, Board Member
Georgette Breland, Board Member, Design and Management Administration and Public Outreach
Bryant Magnum, Board Member
Thomas Smith, Board Member
Vanessa Cain, Board Member

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