The Business Enterprise Law Clinic (BELAW) at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago has been instrumental in helping get a resolution passed before the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The resolution provides additional support to worker cooperative businesses.
For the past year, students enrolled in John Marshall’s BELAW Clinic have been providing transactional legal services to worker cooperative businesses. The BELAW Clinic also authored and published a report on local worker cooperative development, Cooperation Chicago: Building Chicago’s Worker Cooperative Ecosystem, commissioned by the Illinois Worker Cooperative Alliance. Across the country, worker cooperative businesses have been on the rise. Nearly one third of U.S. worker cooperatives operating today were established after 2010.
“Representing worker cooperative businesses gives students more opportunities to analyze complex legal issues and increases opportunities for community impact, public speaking and lawyering-in-context,” said Professor Renee Hatcher, Director of John Marshall’s BELAW Clinic. “Worker-owned cooperatives push against inequality and economic injustice by paying workers more equitably, keeping local wages in the community and addressing economic isolation, worker exploitation and employment discrimination, as the majority of new worker-owners in Chicago and nationally are women or people of color.”
The BELAW Clinic has been working closely with Dr. Stacey Sutton from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and other community partners to develop a larger cooperative development coalition.
In February 2018, Hatcher and Sutton presented to the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation on “Supporting Worker Cooperatives.”
In the subsequent months, Hatcher and Sutton worked with members of the Illinois Worker Cooperative Alliance and the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation’s Finance Committee to draft and propose a resolution and three-year pilot program, under the emerging Chicagoland Cooperative Ecosystem Coalition, to support worker cooperative development in Cook County, IL.
In October 2018, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the proposed resolution to take steps to support and develop worker coops. Thanks to the BELAW Clinic, worker cooperative businesses can receive the additional legal support they need to get started but also thrive.