Campaigns and Initiatives
The Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center's current campaigns and initiatives include its campaigns to combat urban food deserts through urban agriculture land trusts and food cooperatives; unaffordable housing and gentrification through housing and commercial cooperatives; the prison industrial complex and recidivism through worker cooperatives; youth underdevelopment through worker, producer, and consumer cooperatives; instability and exploitation within consumer energy through energy cooperatives; and employment discrimination and exploitation among immigrant workers through worker and producer cooperatives.
The Urban Agriculture Campaign combats urban food deserts and land insecurity for urban gardeners through the creation and support of agricultural land trusts, food cooperatives, and other cooperative urban agricultural enterprises.
A food cooperative is a member-controlled enterprise usually consisting of consumer-members, producer-members, and worker-members all brought together to facilitate the local production, buying, and selling of affordable healthy foods. An agricultural land trust is a member-controlled non-profit designed to acquire land for agriculture and horticultural purposes in order to promote locally grown foods. These cooperative enterprises have shown to be effective at combating insufficient food access in urban areas while also making land acquisition for urban food production more feasible.
The Alternative Economy campaign leverages the limited economic resources within low and moderate income communities by providing alternative means of economic exchanges, including the development of barter-systems, time-banking systems, gifting societies, and mutual credit-clearing systems.
Affordable Housing & Gentrification
The Affordable Housing and Gentrification Campaign creates affordable housing for low and moderate income communities and seeks to prevent the displacement of low and moderate income residents through limited-equity housing cooperatives, commercial cooperatives, and other shared spaces where user-shareholders own real estate, control rent prices, and use shared spaces in order to promote local business, neighborhood stability, and affordable housing and commercial space.
In recent years, urban communities across the nation have seen significant rates of displacement of low and moderate income communities, especially low and moderate income communities of color, due to rapidly rising rental prices and other costs. This displacement, also known as gentrification, is like a plague--a fast plague in some areas and a slow, but deadly plague in others. Nonetheless, cooperatives have been found to be successful at preventing and reducing gentrification by preserving affordability and community control in both housing and commercial buildings.
Prison Industrial Complex & Recidivism
The purpose of the Prison Industrial Complex and Recidivism Campaign is to combat the prison industrial complex system and recidivism through the creation and support of cooperative enterprises that are both jointly-owned and democratically-controlled by members of the prison and formerly incarcerated populations. Currently, mass incarceration has led to the gross exploitation of prison labor while leaving the formerly incarcerated chronically unemployed due to limited employment options and employment discrimination. In addition, prisons are more retributive than rehabilitative and as a result, prisoners and the formerly incarcerated often find themselves repeating crime.
On the contrary, cooperative enterprises have proven to be effective at rehabilitating and combating the exploitation of prison labor, employment discrimination, and recidivism by providing a viable option for both prisoners and the formerly incarcerated to become productive members of society where members democratically control hiring practices, wages, and profits as both an owner and user while also making positive impacts on their communities.
The Youth Development Campaign combats poor scholastic achievement, high rates of unemployment and poor productivity among urban youth through worker cooperatives, school cooperatives, and other cooperative enterprises. Urban youth often find themselves competing with adults to obtain limited (minimum-wage) employment opportunities and having insufficient academic or recreational activities, thus leaving them insufficiently productive.
Youth Cooperatives have been found to increase social capital, academic success, college readiness, and overall community development where youth become active change-makers within their communities and garner entrepreneurial skills that serve as training grounds for business development as adults.
Environmental Justice & Sustainable Energy
The Environmental Justice and Sustainable Energy Campaign creates and supports community-controlled renewable energy production and seeks to combat disparate and discriminatory impact of environmental pollutants on low and moderate income communities.
The Immigrant Rights Campaign aims to combat wage and hour theft, discrimination, job insecurity, and other employment barriers and injustices among vulnerable immigrant groups through worker cooperatives.