Building a Cooperative Economics Alliance

A vision of a community-led “solidarity economy” is capturing the attention of a new generation of progressive New Yorkers.Seeking to address the ecological, economic, and political crises of our time, local groups are reinvigorating cooperative economic models and inventing new ones, putting into action a vision for an economic system that is based on values of social and racial justice, ecological sustainability, cooperation, mutualism, and democracy. They are creating and sustaining worker cooperatives, community development credit unions, community land trusts, low-income housing and food co-ops, and community gardens — strengthening neighborhoods, making them more resilient, and meeting community needs.

Together, these efforts offer a pragmatic vision for grassroots, community-led economic development that benefits all New Yorkers. Through democratically-structured local institutions, marginalized New Yorkers, in particular, including low-income immigrants, women, and people of color, are gaining control over their workplace, housing, finance, land use, and food. They are also building a movement, as new leaders develop democratic decision-making skills needed to challenge systemic poverty and oppression.

The expansion of New York City’s solidarity economy is now more necessary than ever. The large Wall Street banks have more than rebounded from the global economic crisis they caused. Meanwhile, New York City continues to be plagued by an ever-widening wealth gap and persistent neighborhood poverty. Many low-income neighborhoods hit by Hurricane Sandy have yet to recover, and the likelihood of recurring environmental disaster looms.

In response to these realities, and recognizing the solidarity economy as necessary to achieving resilience, economic justice, and community equity, leaders from five organizations last year formed the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City (CEANYC). To date, CEANYC has functioned as a steering committee led by the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, New Economy Project, NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives, SolidarityNYC, and The Working World. CEANYC is assessing the feasibility of creating a multi-stakeholder organization that could bolster and bridge various sectors of the solidarity economy in New York City. The groups’ ultimate objective is to build a solidarity economy in New York City that has lasting power, and fundamentally brings about a new economy.