We at Green Worker Cooperatives stand in solidarity with all those that are protesting the deaths of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all of the Black women, men, and trans folks assaulted and killed by police. We feel this moment deeply because they are all us. We are a Black-led organization and mostly Black women at that. And our cooperatives are for the most part all Black & Indigenous People of Color. We feel the same rage that is burning in the streets. We also feel fear as we watch the neo-fascism of the White House infect NYC and other cities nationwide that have responded to protests with curfews and militarized police and National Guard troops while protestors are gassed, beaten, run over, and even killed.
Message to our co-ops, participants, partners, funders, and supporters
Dear extended family of co-ops, Co-op Academy participants, funders, organizational and coalition Partners, and supporters, in the spirit of full transparency we at Green Worker Cooperatives are sharing news about how we’re dealing with specific challenges that will impact our communications with you over the summer.
Beginning this month, most Green Worker Cooperatives staff will be on furlough, and there will be a programming hiatus for external events and campaigns.
Due to financial hardships exacerbated by COVID-19 conditions, our staff will be on furlough for the months of August and September. This means that we will be operating at reduced capacity during this period. We expect to restart all staff and programs in October, as well as our participation in the many networks and campaigns we’ve been engaged in that allow us to recruit, train, and grow worker co-ops.
This time of year is usually a difficult time for us financially as we wind up waiting long periods to be reimbursed for a year’s worth of work by the City of New York. It’s funding that we and our partner organizations fought long and hard to get...an annual investment of our tax dollars in the development of worker co-ops as a vehicle for economic democracy. But the flip side of City funding is that it takes a year to get paid for work you’ve already done. This is manageable for the large, well-funded white-led organizations with large reserves that make up the bulk of nonprofits that receive City contracts. But for the rest of us - the people of color-led organizations that receive less funding, have no reserves, do disproportionately more work, and are actually based in the communities we serve - it is a recipe for months of cash flow crises and unpaid staff, not to mention stress on top of stress for all staff involved. And now with COVID-19, those delays are expected to drag on even longer. If ending inequality is actually a goal at City Hall, then transforming this contracting system that entrenches a racial hierarchy among nonprofits is long overdue.
The board and staff of GWC have been engaged in ongoing strategy sessions these past few months to navigate this crisis and remain operational. And yet, while we await our reimbursement, we have had to get honest with ourselves about what we can realistically do within our financial limits to support staff and co-ops and meet the long term goals of the organization. As such, we are reducing our own capacity temporarily.
What You Can Expect
Our main program, the 5-month long Co-op Academy, will continue this Fall, although it will begin one month later than usual, in October. It will be our 20th cohort and this time, because of COVID-19 it will take place virtually. We’ve already run a successful trial of a virtual Co-op Academy last Spring for people with developmental disabilities. And we are excited for this next cohort. At 23 teams of co-op startups, it will be our largest cohort ever. We have staff dedicated to this course and have prepared the resources to make it happen. In order to ensure that we maintain our own sanity, there will be no Spring 2021 Co-op Academy. Instead we will use the time to deepen our support for our existing network of co-ops and recruit for the Fall 2021 Co-op Academy. We will keep you updated as time goes on.
We will sadly not be hosting our annual Big Bronx Sancochazo festival this September. Even prior to financial considerations, the reality of COVID-19 had us cancel all in-person gatherings for safety considerations. We are however exploring holding our annual Social Justice Holiday Market in November as a virtual marketplace. Stay tuned for more on that.
During these two furlough months, we will be pausing on our participation in several campaigns and coalitions that we’re members of, such as the city-wide Public Bank Campaign for the creation of a municipal public bank for NYC, the Start SMART Coalition to end marijuana prohibition in NY state, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and it’s various campaigns to improve environmental conditions in low-income communities of color.
We will however continue our participation in NYC’s Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative and will maintain communications with our own network of cooperatives.
We aim for all staff to return to their roles in October and resume programs, partnerships, campaigns, and events, as there is capacity to do. We expect to be back in the full swing of things by November.
Whom To Contact
During this time, all communications should be directed to Omar Freilla, Executive Director and Co-op Academy Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-617-7807 ext. 701). Please note there may be a slower than usual response time over these next two months.
Our staff deserve a special shout-out for their efforts during this incredibly unusual and difficult period to create magic and chart a way forward in the face of complexity. This amazing team has been working hard in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. The board of directors of Green Worker Cooperatives have stepped into action during this time as well, providing valuable insight and expertise during this period.
We are grateful for the support and patience of our organizational partners, supporters, and certainly our co-ops that are at the center of our very purpose.
We are grateful for you and welcome your further support as we move forward. Any offers of assistance such as new collaborations; massages for staff; food; and monetary donations are greatly appreciated. We encourage you to make a financial contribution by clicking here. Every donation helps. And any amount from you means a lot to us. Any non-monetary offers of support should be emailed to email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It means a lot to us and is an affirmation that although these are difficult times, the way we get through them is together.
Karen Washington, Chairperson
Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Treasurer
Raybblin Vargas, Secretary
Noemi Giszpenc, Board Member
Omar Freilla, Executive Director