Here’s An Idea For Anyone Who’s Tired Of Being Treated Like A Chump At A Dead-End Job

We may live in a capitalist economy, but that doesn’t mean business has to be ruthlessly driven by bottom lines.

Like a lot of other cities, Cleveland got smashed when the recession hit in 2007. But one community decided they didn’t need rescuing. They’re using business and entrepreneurship to fight poverty and inequality. And the way they’re doing it isn’t just “business as usual.”

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Steven Standley: And this really is just the beginning. And it’s a great model. This is a real deal. And you can see the guys over here, and the ladies that are going to own this company, and what an incredible opportunity. 

Lester Lefton: If it really is a great day for Cleveland, it’s a great day for the employee, owners. It’s really great day for all of us working together. 

James Harris: Evergreen changed my life. It changed my life for the best because if it wasn’t for Evergreen and the Cooperative-op I don’t know where I’d be right now. 

Tracie Marsh: Evergreen has changed my life. It has enabled me to be a contributor, not only to the community, but to society as well. 

Medrick Addison: I love telling you about Evergreen. What Evergreen has done for me, what I’ve done for Evergreen, and what we’ve done together. 

Ted Howard:Traditionally, economic development in this country we what we do is we train people for jobs, and then at the end of that pipeline there may not be a job there. Evergreen stands that model on its head. We’re building the green businesses first. We know what the 50 jobs will be, and then we recruit people into those positions. 

Medrick Addison: You help it grow. You nurture it. You are instrumental in what it becomes, and that’s difference between working at Evergreen and somewhere else. 

Loretta Bay: I am an owner versus just a worker. I help make decisions in company. 

Ted Howard: You’re hired as a probationary or temporary worker for 6 to 12 months. During that time you prove yourself. Do you show up? Are you a good team player? Do you buy into the Evergreen concept and the mission?

James Gerber: The members who are already part of the Co-op vote democratically on whether or not you get in. 

Ted Howard: If they vote you in, then you become a member of the Co-op. You immediately get a raise. You start buying your share in the Co-op, and then each year that there are profits in the company they’re divided into accounts called “Capital Accounts” that each worker has, and that’s an asset that each worker builds up overtime as their earnings. 

Tracie Marsh: We have a stake in the business. We are also a part of the decision making process. 

James Gerber: It’s putting actual wealth building materials in the hands of people who would normally not have that opportunity. It’s making them their only CEO. 

Ted Howard: Evergreen was really inspired by something that’s taking place not in this country but overseas. 

India Pierce Lee: What we learned going to Mondragon, Spain is really how they took a model from over 50 years ago, and made it so successful that its transformed the whole region. 

Ron Jones: The people, the skill sets reside in these areas. We’re building it. We’re growing them. We’re growing the businesses in target zones. 

John Logue: The Anchor Institution in Greater University Circle do about 3 billion dollars a year in procurement. 

Oliver Henkel: The Cleveland Clinic is really very excited about what Evergreen Cooperative initiative entails. It is so much that is good for the City of Cleveland. And the combination of the area institutions that are here to stay working with these new cooperatives that are creating not only jobs but wealth for our community. 

Steven Standley: Everything we do to consume, to run these businesses here, these health care operations, if we can do that in a way that’s better for the local environment and the community that lives in the environment that’s a real positive for us. 

Barbara Snyder: We feed an awful lot of people on campus every day. And we think that the idea of being able to use products that are grown locally, very close by, it also has a great environmental benefit of removing the carbon footprint from the transportation of those goods across long distances. And we think it’s good for the community to have that business right here in town. 

John Wheeler: It’s a terrific formula. And we owe it to make sure we give this every opportunity to work. 

Ronald B. Richard: But here we are ready to break ground for our third cooperative. And if that’s not a call to celebrate, we don’t what is. 

Frank Jackson: It will turn vacant land into productive use. It will provide good jobs for Clevelanders. And it will provide healthy, affordable, locally grown food. As we move ahead and look at our economy and where it’s going we want to be in the forefront of it. And this project helps us to do that. 

Mary Donell: Green City Growers is a 3.8 acre greenhouse, hydroponic, leafy greens, will grow lettuces and herbs, and it’s in the heart of Cleveland. And it’s the third of the Evergreen companies. It will provide employment. It will grow wealth for worker/owners. 

Traci Marsh: The future of Evergreen is bright. And maybe, we can see more Evergreens not only here …

India Pierce Lee: I think what is does is open the imagination for the country to think about how to do things differently in our urban core. 

b>Lillian Kuri: I see Evergreen having the exact same impact in the future in that it becomes part of the vocabulary, not just in the Greater University circle. 

John Logue: Leadership, and that leadership has been furnished by the Cleveland Foundation, by the city, and by the leadership of the Anchor Institutions. 

James Harris: I think that everybody should get into the whole cooperative thing. Maybe, in due time, once I get a little older and get a little more experience in the Co-op thing maybe, I can start another Co-op doing something else in Ohio. 

Medrick Addison: It allowed me to dream again. Things I put on hold, and things I just put to the back of my mind and thought, “It is possible again?” It’s brought that back to the forefront. 

Male: Cleveland wants to be where the world is going, not where the world is.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Original by the Evergreen Cooperatives, which are helping to redefine the American dream in Cleveland and beyond. If you’re into the idea of worker cooperatives and want to learn more, check out the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Have a great idea for your very own worker-owned, democratically run business? See if The Working World can help. Lastly, here’s a New York Times story about worker cooperatives that basically says how great they are.

Mar 27, 2014

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