Protesters Give Martins Roadblock Award

 

“More than two dozen protesters from three progressive advocacy groups gathered at the Mineola office of State Sen. Jack Martins Wednesday afternoon to present him with Roadblock Awards for blocking several pieces of Democratic legislation.

The protesters, members of Make the Road Action Fund, the New York Communities for Change and the Long Island Progressive Coalition, were confronted by Martins campaign adviser E. O’Brien Murray, where a heated argument reportedly ensued.”

 

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Worker Co-ops on The Rise in New York

Worker Co-ops on The Rise in New York

by Spencer Rumsey on September 1, 2014
Peerless Electronics in Bethpage is owned by its employees.

Peerless Electronics in Bethpage is owned by its employees.

This Labor Day most Americans will be taking a break from their bosses, but a small group of employees will be celebrating the fact that they are their own bosses because they belong to workers cooperatives.

It’s a democratic working arrangement that seems to be gaining more attention since Occupy Wall Street, although the concept actually goes back to the dawn of the labor movement. The idea made news in June when the New York City Council made the largest pledge of government support for worker cooperative business development in U.S. history by making a $1.2-million investment in such initiatives.

“Obviously, cooperatives didn’t just come out of Occupy Wall Street,” said Brendan Martin, founding director of The Working World, a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization that provides investment capital and technical support for worker cooperatives. “But it did help focus people’s energy and attention on alternatives… The whole movement was about questioning aspects of our economic system and who owns what. One of the key problems is how few own so much!”

One lively offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street was the creation of OccuCopy, a workers cooperative in Brooklyn, which started with a small group camped out in Zucotti Park who had discovered they had similar interests. Now it’s renamed Radix Media, a “full-service commercial print shot” with three members. It’s also a union shop—part of the Teamsters Local 1, the Amalgamated Lithographers of America. Their big project right now is helping the People’s Climate March produce material to publicize its nationwide event Sept. 21.

“We do a ton of stuff,” explained Lantz Arroyo, who was born in Rockville Centre and lived in Hempstead until he was four. But he got interested in workers cooperatives while he was living in Portland, Ore., before moving to New York City and joining up with his co-workers last summer. He loves the working arrangement.

“We’re not working for someone else and getting paid low wages while someone at the top is making more,” he told the Press. “We do find ourselves working on our days off and having meetings on our days off, but I think it’s definitely more fulfilling. It’s a great model for people who want to have a livelihood but don’t want to just make someone else rich while they’re struggling every day.”

WORKERS UNITE

All told, there are 29,284 cooperatives in the United States, excluding housing co-ops, but only 223 are directly worker-owned, according to John Duda, communications coordinator of the Democracy Collaborative, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, which promotes this worker-owned business model.

The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), a national organization established in 2004, estimates that there are 300-400 worker-owned co-ops and “democratic workplaces” in the United States, employing 2,500-3,500 workers. A 2012 study by the Democracy At Work Institute, a USFWC affiliate, found that 71 percent of worker co-ops have fewer than 15 members. The largest worker co-op in the country happens to be the Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, which has 1,100 “worker-owners” out of it 2,300 employees, according to the USFWC.

“Cooperatives are a bigger part of the economy than most people realize,” Duda told the Press. “You’re talking about organizations that are democratically owned and controlled by their members. Those can be purchasing cooperatives, banking cooperatives, agricultural cooperatives, housing cooperatives, or worker cooperatives.”

Add in credit unions and employee-owned companies, and “about 130 million people in the U.S. are in cooperatives,” said Duda. “There’s 6 million more people in employee-owned companies in the United States than there are in labor unions in the private sector.”

Here on Long Island, the Bethpage-based Peerless Electronics became an employee-owned company as of May 30, 2012, when the Employees Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) acquired 100 percent of the company from the estate of the late owner, Alvin M. Shankman, who had owned the firm privately since 1945. In a press release, Robert Levine, president and chief financial officer, wrote: “In today’s economic and business environment, it is especially important to note that we have secured the employee positions, maintained jobs on Long Island and will continue to be a strong business partner with our customers and suppliers.”

Peerless preserved its hierarchical structure, but the transition also kept the company alive. Duda says that creating worker cooperatives generally offers a better approach to economic development than typical government policy.

“You don’t give a corporate tax subsidy to somebody and hope they’ll create some jobs that will pay a living wage,” said Duda. “You give it to people who are running a democratically owned business. They tend not to vote to dissolve themselves or ‘offshore’ themselves.”
Subsidizing corporations, Duda said, “didn’t actually deliver the goods. We have greater inequality today than we did a couple of decades ago.”

Duda said that the New York City Council’s $1.2 million budget initiative to fund worker cooperative development targeted at low-income communities was a great step forward.

“Folks without assets don’t have the equity to start a business, so how do you get them those assets in a way that doesn’t exploit them?” Duda said. “Our organization focuses on how do we get worker cooperatives the business that they need? How do you build a larger framework for local policy that says: ‘Ok, we’ve got hospitals and universities; they spend billions of dollars a year, but they spend it outside the communities that they’re a part of.”

MEET THE NEW BOSS

The co-op concept is certainly getting wider attention, here and elsewhere.

“Our board had a huge discussion about cooperatives” last year, said Long Island Progressive Coalition Director Lisa Tyson. “They’re awesome!”

Her group is not-for-profit, so the business model doesn’t apply, but she thinks more people should consider it.

“When businesses are threatened, it’s a great way to keep the business alive and have the workers take on a different role,” she said.

Tyson said her group didn’t know of any functioning worker co-ops on Long Island. Attempts by the Press to find them in Nassau and Suffolk also came up empty.

Out in the Rockaways, it’s a different story, where two workers cooperatives are thriving—with more on the way.

“I think we’re planting the seeds for what could be a big change,” said Scott Trumbull, project officer for the Working World. He’s been involved in helping set up La Mies Bakery, which has four employees, and Roca Mia Construction, which has five. In the planning stages are a landscaping cooperative and a taxi service.

Of course, raising capital is the biggest hurdle for any business, let alone a cooperative. Thanks to the New York City Council’s recent $1.2 million pledge, the Working World got a $230,000 grant, which will have a direct impact on future cooperative development in Far Rockaway, Trumbull said. What differentiates their investment strategy from a typical start-up loan is that “we assume the risk,” he explained.

“We only recover our money from the profits the co-op generates,” he said. That’s why they are very rigorous with the co-ops they commit to helping.

“One of the most important things in co-ops is to have a really strong set of rules to guide the cooperative,” said Trumbull. “When someone is doing something that is not right, you can say, ‘Hey, this is not in compliance with the rules that we ALL agreed upon.’…It’s a big switch from being accountable to the boss to being accountable to the whole group.”

So what does a worker co-op do on Labor Day?

“We respect it!” said Trumbull with a laugh. “We will not be working!”

Read more: Long Island Press

Views for 90 Penn: Becca’s View


Fudge-photo
      My name is Becca and I am currently an intern with LIPC. I entered this position in January during my last undergraduate semester at LIU Post, where I study sociology. At the end of this year I will be graduating from college and entering the real world. Everyone’s dream is to find a job in their field straight out of college. In my recent job search I have noticed something concerning; there aren’t many positions, at least not for someone holding a bachelors degree. Most positions require a Master Degree or higher. That is at least another two years of school that I would have to pay for while working at a job that doesn’t pay me enough to afford rent let alone pay for graduate school.

At 22 I am at that age where living with my parents is no longer desirable. However, as a Long Islander that is essentially my only option. Not only are there few jobs available to me but the salary rates do not match up with the average cost of living on Long Island. While thinking about my future it seems to me like the most feasible option is to move out of the state.  Long Island is my home, it is where I was born and it is where I’ve continued to live for the last 22 years. My parents, my sister, and my friends are all here. It is sad to think that I may not be able to afford to live on this island I call my home, because let’s face it; Long Island is not affordable; especially for people like me.

It is important that we bring affordable housing to Long Island. It is not just you people who are struggling. Senior citizens cannot afford to pay property taxes on their homes. When they are forced to move due to high costs it is nearly impossible for them to find affordable rentals. Families, who make less than 100,000 dollars a year, cannot afford to buy homes here. So even though they are not poor they have no place to live. Through LIPC’s Yes in My Backyard campaign (YIMBY) we a bringing affordable housing to long island one community at a time. LIPC encourages communities to reach out to their town officials to make sure they know that affordable housing is important to Long Islanders.

After coming to intern with the Long Island progressive coalition I realized how pressing these issues are for many Long Islanders. There are many people holding down jobs that don’t pay them a livable wage and the cost of housing here is astronomical compared to other states. The Long Island Progressive Coalition fights to ensure that people have good paying jobs, affordable housing, and other equal opportunities, regardless of their race or where they live. It is amazing to know that I became involved with an organization that helps fight for people like me and I am glad to be helping fight for a better future, not just for myself but for all Long Islanders.

Lagging Behind on Energy Innovation

Orre PhotoI recently attended a public hearing about the 2014 New York State Energy Plan. Governor Cuomo has said that he wants New York to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by the year 2050 from 1990 levels, and achieve a 50 percent cut by 2030. The plan includes several initiatives that will make this goal feasible. However, most of the testimonies at the hearing were about what was missing in the plan. They urged the governor to aim attention at renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectricity and geothermal power. Most of them also talked about how far ahead Europe is when it comes to energy innovation. The hearing caused me to think a great deal about differences in energy policies in Europe and the US, and the role of renewable energy.

The US gets 85% of their energy from fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas, and is one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases. While the US has focused on strategies to secure more oil and gas, Europe has been leading the way when it comes to transitioning from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy. Several European countries demonstrate that it is possible to implement policies and offer incentives that are effective in encouraging investment in renewable energy sources. In Europe the energy policies seems to be environmentally based, while in the US energy policies are economically based. Americans are still in denial about the causes and effects of climate change. They set climate protection against economic growth, and of course nothing is more sacred than economic growth. American policy makers endorse quick fixes that ignore the actual market and technology for renewable energy that is available. European countries have simply been better at using government policies and the private sector to make clean energy accessible for businesses and consumers. The results are windmill farms, tidal turbines and solar panels all over the European landscape. Incorporation of green policies can also be seen in people’s day-to-day life. Being a resident of a European country myself, I can attest to the different attitudes to the benefits of living green. My parents recently installed a geothermal heat pump in their house, which has reduced their energy bill and made the temperature of the house more comfortable throughout the year. The design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems. My home country Norway is an oil rich country, but also a large producer of renewable energy. We have made use of our copious resources in hydropower, wind power and bio-energy from wood. Despite the fact that our wealth stems from oil, the government promotes policies that favor the use of renewable energy, which in turn prompts citizens to take on the challenges of climate change.

There is no doubt that we will one day extract the last of the planet’s reserves of oil and gas. Thus we all have to look towards the future at other energy sources that in principle will never cease to exist. The sun will shine, the trees will grow, the wind will blow and the waves will slosh. Governor Cuomo and New York needs to take a leading role transforming the energy system to focus on clean energy technologies. Long Island is a place where you can clearly see the devastating effects of climate change, for example with the super storms Irene and Sandy. You can also see Long Island’s potential to be a center for production of clean energy. New York’s energy future should not be about the extraction of fossil fuels, but about looking generations ahead and establishing a cleaner and safer environment right now.

 

LI groups protest Cuomo tax cuts to banks, wealthy, funding cuts to schools

Long Island Protest

Chanting “Banks got the gold mine, the people got the shaft,” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and waving signs calling for living wage jobs, affordable housing, affordable schools and universal Pre-K, labor and community groups rallied outside the Bank of America office in Great Neck to call attention the growing wealth gap in New York State and to call for investment of state dollars in schools and communities, not tax breaks for the largest banks, as Governor Cuomo is proposing.

Read more here: http://www.examiner.com/article/li-groups-protest-cuomo-tax-cuts-to-banks-wealthy-funding-cuts-to-schools

See more pictures here: http://www.examiner.com/slideshow/long-islanders-protest-cuomo-tax-cuts-to-banks-wealthy-funding-cuts-to-schools#slide=1

Residents Rally Outside Sen. Martins’ Office to Protest His Refusal to Support Fair Elections

Long Island Progressive Coalition

(Garden City, NY) Area residents joined with labor unions and progressive advocates on Wednesday in rallying outside of Senator Jack Martins’ office, protesting his refusal to support a proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo to create a system of publicly financed elections.

Represented at the rally were Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, Common Cause New York, United Auto Workers and MoveOn.org.

“After years of corruption and broken government, Governor Cuomo has included a Fair Elections system of lower contribution limits and small matching funds, ensuring we’ll see more candidates running and more participation from small contributors. Polls consistently show that a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents support these reforms. Today, I’m asking my Senator, Jack Martins, to stand with his constituents and not the special interests that seem determined to keep the status quo. Senator Martins: Keep Fair Elections in the budget,” said Port Washington resident and Common Cause member Phil DePaolo.

The Fair Elections proposal would create a public matching system for small dollar campaign contributions, giving everyday voters an equal voice in the political process. Candidates who opt into the system wouldn’t have to rely on big money donations from well-connected insiders and can instead focus on catering to their constituents. Cuomo included the proposal in his 2014 Executive Budget, which is currently being debated by the legislature.

Read more: 

Interns View: “A Time for Action and Activism”

Views From 90 Penn

Interns View: “A Time for Action and Activism”

by Gil Bayone

Gil Bayonne

My name is Gil Bayonne, a college graduate, former professional athlete, and most recently an intern for the Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC).  I’ve spent my entire life training, dissecting game footage, playing countless weekend matches across the world. Playing the game I love for a living, up until recently I felt as though I had found my life’s purpose. That’s when I received the phone call that would forever change my life.

Regardless of the time zone differences, I’ve always made it a priority to have daily phone or email contact with my family. However, this particular call altered my life’s course forever; my brother was being charged with a felony. Growing up a first generation Haitian-American, this call came as a complete culture shock. As a consequence of having spent the last seven years playing collegiate soccer out of state and professional soccer abroad, I naturally became disconnected with my family. Hearing that my brother was facing up fifteen years in a federal prison sent hundreds of thoughts swirling through my mind:  How could this happen? Did I put my personal ambitions before my family? Why wasn’t I there to steer my brother down a different path? I began losing my passion for the game that had done so much for me.. After my season ended in Singapore, I spent three months traveling to tryouts across the world in Vietnam, France and Israel,  pursuing another professional soccer contract to no avail.

It was during my travels, and time of reflection that I realized that soccer was only one of the gifts that God had bestowed on me. After completing my Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) exam, I began searching for an opportunity to partake in meaningful community work.  Working with LIPC has provided countless invaluable life lessons and disciplines that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Being a part of LIPC has been an extremely rewarding experience; it has allowed me to satiate my desire to pursue a career in public interest work.  Former Seattle Mayor Norman Rice once said, “Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness to pull another hand into the light”.

On March 10, 2014 my brother pled guilty to two felony charges. Some may read this and say, “just another black male incarcerated”. Indeed they would be correct in their judgments; my brother is one of the 841,000 black males currently incarcerated in the United States.  All of us have, I suspect moments of illumination in our lives that revealed disturbing realities that we had long ignored, moments that have pushed us to question and ultimately to act .The pain that many families like mine have endured should push us all to think deeply about the problems that lie within our community, and prompt us to act for as long as it takes to change our communities.

As a lifelong resident of Amityville, NY I have witness the firsthand effects of socioeconomic inequality (i.e. troubled school district, poverty, crime, etc.). Despite these challenges I remain confident that justice and equality will be found. There may not be one particular answer to problems of our communities, but through the sustained efforts of courageous organizations like LIPC we are making strides in direction towards justice and equality. Drawing from my own personal life experiences has been no easy task; however I share this information in hope of sparking a discussion that will lead to the change that is desperately needed on Long Island. Instead of casting judgment on the trouble youth in our communities, let’s spark a progressive dialogue that can serve as the first step towards a better Long Island for all.

Power Up Your Home With PowerUp Communities

Powerup Communities event at Long Beach City Hall Monday, March 10, 2014 from 6-8 PM.

PowerUp Communities Event

Learn how you can save energy, save money and increase the comfort and value of your home.

PowerUp Communities will be speaking about the benefits of energy efficiency improvements, the process, the rebates and financing available, as well as the specific benefits that come with being a PowerUp Communities homeowner, such as an additional 5% discount. Representatives will be there to answer any questions and to help interested homeowners get started in the process.

PowerUp Communities connect homeowners with government funds, one-on-one support and certified contractors, in receiving energy-saving home improvements. In addition to cutting waste, reducing our carbon footprint and saving people money, PowerUp Communities sparks job and business opportunities-right here in our neighborhoods. The LIPCs PowerUp Communities is the local Community Based Organization contracted through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authorities (NYSERDA) Green Jobs Green New York (GJGNY) initiative.