The following testimony was offered by one of PACA’s Co-op Developers, Jeanette Cuevas, during Philadelphia City Council’s hearing earlier today examining the use and impact of the stimulus dollars allocated for Philadelphia under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.
Good evening, Councilmembers. My name is Jeanette Cuevas, and I am a Co-op Developer with the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, or PACA for short.
I understand that we are talking about how to use the 1.4 billion dollars that Philadelphia is scheduled to receive as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which is intended to help our City and economy recover from a monumental year in our collective history.
We have a unique opportunity, as Councilmember Domb states in his resolution, to “make significant investments in programs and policies that set Philadelphia on a new trajectory to grow family-sustaining jobs at a faster rate, reduce and combat entrenched systemic poverty, and develop new and innovative methods for performing city services.”
With this in mind, I am here today to urge Philadelphia’s elected leaders to make such an investment through our local cooperative economy.
Cooperatives (or “co-ops”) are jointly-owned, democratically controlled enterprises that exist across industries and sectors. By providing technical assistance, PACA supports working class Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color and immigrant communities who are using cooperatives as a tool toward racial and economic justice. There are numerous reasons this tool is so powerful.
First, research shows that worker cooperatives provide higher quality jobs with better wages than traditionally structured counterparts. This is especially important in industries characterized by inconsistent work and/or wages, such as childcare, media production, food service, and birth work.
Second, cooperative structures can help preserve existing businesses:
- As we face the silver tsunami, an aging population of business owners, one strategy for business preservation is to support owners in selling their businesses to their workers.
- Another business preservation strategy is the creation of purchasing or shared service cooperatives, which help member businesses lower their costs. As an example, I’ve worked with bodegueros on exploring a purchasing cooperative to improve the sustainability of their individual corner stores. This will help these immigrant businesses stay afloat, and builds community and shared power among folks who were previously isolated and competing for resources.
Finally, it is no secret to anyone that Philadelphia desperately needs more affordable housing. We know that building housing cooperatives on community land trusts is a powerful way to ensure permanent affordability, which is why we are working with a West Philadelphia housing co-op right now to support their expansion.
We at PACA can speak to the increased interest in cooperative economics since the pandemic hit. More people are seeing how co-ops are necessary for Philadelphia to build a resilient and equitable economy in which people have agency, and wealth is built and shared within the community. What we need is a deep investment in cooperative development and technical assistance to match the growing demand.
I urge Philadelphia’s elected leaders to make that investment. Thank you for your time.