Our second year of operation was a busy one. We held a retreat in February in Atlanta to plan out the year. Soon afterwards, we released our report Cruel and Usual, in cooperation with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), about problems with food and health care quality in prisons. This research was based on 123 surveys with incarcerated workers in 21 states and was covered in In These Times. Cruel and Usual concludes:
Overall, the prisoners describe a prison system that routinely provides inadequate food and health care that endangers their health. Unsanitary conditions, small servings of poor quality food, and lack of attention to special diets are common. Disrespect by health care staff, delayed care, and denial of treatment and medications are also common.
During the spring, we worked with Rebecca Lurie of the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies developing a workshop educating unionists about the history and power of worker cooperatives, a part of the labor movement often overlooked. We presented the workshop in focus groups in New York City and at the 2018 Labor Notes conference in Chicago.
For most of the first half of the year we worked on research, in cooperation with New York City staff, on various aspects of the cooperative economy in the city. This included worker coops and ESOPS, food and housing coops, credit unions and also some of the ways the city is supporting small business development which could be directed towards coop formation. We hope that this research will be published soon.
We also worked all year on an ongoing project in Atlanta assisting the Pre-Arrest Diversion pilot initiative with program evaluation and data analysis. This program seeks to develop treatment programs and social services as an alternative to incarceration for low-level offenders.
We gathered again at a July retreat in Philadelphia. In August, working with the Racial Justice Action Center and Women on the Rise, we provided background information and budget data on the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) to better understand the history and economics of the facility. This research helped inform the ongoing community campaign to close the jail. We released a public report about the jail, The History of the Atlanta City Detention Center, in December. More information about the campaign is here.
Building off of years of work, we now have corporate research trainings available. Union or community organizing campaigns may find it essential to undertake comprehensive corporate research. This helps them better understand a company where workers are trying to organize or when community members are fighting for a community benefits agreement or other policy.
Furthermore, at the end of last year, we are proud to have joined the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the national grassroots membership organization of several hundred worker coops.
In 2019, we want to continue to work on exciting projects and develop relationships with great ally groups. If you have any ideas or projects you’d like to discuss, give us a call!
Abby, Biko, Eric and Kate