Mini-cast 144: Celebrating 2 New Co-ops & a Podcast


Bret Keisling is joined by Co-op Developer Rodney North who celebrates new co-ops White Electric Coffee Co-op and NYC’s The Drivers Cooperative. They also discuss the upcoming Why Worker Co-ops? Podcast, launching September 2021!


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Mini-cast 144 Transcript

Bret Keisling: [00:00:00] Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. I am very pleased to welcome back to the podcast Rodney North, who is a co-op developer. Rodney, welcome back.


Rodney North: [00:00:20] It's great to be back.

Bret Keisling: [00:00:21] You first appeared on Episode 117 of the podcast, and people can learn all about your background and your thoughts about cooperatives. We're going to talk today about two new co-operatives, as well as a new worker's co-op podcast that you're hosting and I'm producing. Is that what's on your agenda today?


Rodney North: [00:00:40] It is. I'm really looking forward to it.


Bret Keisling: [00:00:42] All right, we'll get there in just a moment. But first, just want to remind our listeners the NCEO Fall ESOP Forum is taking place live and virtually September 22nd through the 24th, 2021. Live in San Diego with a major component virtual as well.

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With that, Rodney, we're going to celebrate two brand new cooperatives today. Why don't you take it away?


Rodney North: [00:01:29] I'm excited about both of these, but for different reasons. So, a lot of us can think about our local coffee shop. It could be a big chain, or it could be a local independent. We don't think about those café jobs, those coffee shop jobs, as good jobs. Well, in my old neighborhood, the west side of Providence Rhode Island, there is now a new worker owned cooperative called White Electric Coffee Co-op. Everybody knows them just as White Electric. The shop has been there for, I think, decades, but it was last summer, the workers, they had a lot of issues with - like a lot of folks at coffee shops do - took the issues to the owners and got fired for it.

In response, they then formed an independent union, the acronym is CUPS. And before you know it, about six months after they had gone to the owners, the owners expressed that they were willing to sell. Actually, they had already said they were going to sell, but they said they were willing to sell to the workers. So fast forward, appropriately May Day 2021, it reopened as a worker-owned cooperative. So, it's a great story, workers leading the buyout of their own coffee shop and the lucky folks on the west side can go check it out. So that's White Electric in Providence.


I do want to mention how they did a crowdfunding campaign. 400 people, I was one of them, pitched in a total of $50,000, that's about a little over a hundred dollars each, that enabled them to help them to buy their shop. I felt really good about that and there's a very different story for the second co-op.


Bret Keisling: [00:03:10] With congratulations to White Electric, let's go onto the second co-op.


Rodney North: [00:03:14] So, just like we all know coffee shops, we all know about ride hailing and platforms like Uber and Lyft. We're all familiar with a lot of complaints about how those drivers are treated and who's making the money. So in New York City check out The Driver's Co-operative. As they say, I'm reading it from their website, "a ride hailing platform owned by workers, not billionaire founders and venture capital."

In their case, a hundred percent worker owned. They've already recruited 3000 drivers. They have 30,000 passenger accounts. They've completed more than 2000 trips. They've already generated a hundred thousand dollars in fares and they're looking to take on Uber and Lyft. So I wanted people to know, not just that they exist, but they're doing something interesting. They're raising donations and investments, crowdfunded investments. So they've already raised, this is, equity, not donations, $285,000 towards a million dollar goal. Minimum investment is only a hundred dollars.


We're going to put links to all this in the show notes so people can both check it out, especially if you're in the city, but also anybody can financially participate in trying to get this co-op off the ground.


Bret Keisling: [00:04:32] That is very cool. And I love that the second example followed the first where we already know $50,000 was raised to be able to establish that co-op. So the fact that there's fundraising opportunities or ways to support is excellent. Folks, I use ride sharing apps all the time. It's a no brainer if I could use one that's employee-owned. And as you know, Rodney, Dardan Isufi from Eva.coop was on the podcast this spring. They're doing amazing things in Montreal and Quebec. So I'd recommend people check out that episode in our archives while they're checking out your past episode as well. We really wish The Drivers Co-operative great success and it's exciting that they're doing this in New York City.


Rodney North: [00:05:12] Sure is.


Bret Keisling: [00:05:13] Rodney one final thing. And it's my habit to talk about other people before we talk about ourselves, but I am very excited, my friend. I am producing a podcast that we are going to launch in, we expect, September of 2021. It is called Why Worker Co-ops?. It is part of the EO Podcast Network, along with the ESOP Podcast and ESOP Mini-cast and Rodney, my friend, you are the new host of the Why Worker Co-ops? Podcast!


Rodney North: [00:05:41] I'm very excited about that. And thank you for creating the platform for such a show. In this new podcast, we want to talk about why worker co-ops? So for example, how could worker cooperatives address, entrenched income and wealth inequality? How can worker co-ops help to preserve legacy businesses in your community? How can worker cooperatives promote a democratic culture by instilling democracy in the workplace, thereby furthering our sort of social commitment to democratic values? So these and many other things and success stories, like some of the ones we were just talking about, it's the kind of stuff that we want to cover in the new podcast.


Bret Keisling: [00:06:30] And Rodney, I'm excited because although we're not ready to announce guests, you have put together content for episodes. And we have the guests that you're in touch with, or little bit of a wish list maybe, because we're just starting to finalize the pre-production things. But this is going to be a combination of your insight, some of the news that you're seeing, but also conversations with thought leaders in the cooperative or employee ownership movement.


Rodney North: [00:06:54] It is. I'm looking forward to it and it's funny as I started this list of, well, what kinds of things do we have to share? It's a really long list and it's probably going to just grow the more we dig into it.


Bret Keisling: [00:07:07] Well, Rodney, I love that. As you know, there is one other podcast title called Owner 2 Owner that is similarly set to begin production in August and start dropping new episodes in September. We're going to wait and have that new host on before we talk anymore about it. But we're going to have four podcasts. And let me just take a moment, Rodney, if I can, and you're aware of this, but for our listeners, I've been doing two podcasts a week for four years now. I love it. I love every moment of it, but I can't get to the stories that I want to talk about. And meanwhile, as you've pointed out, you have so much content, we're just in the planning for your podcast, that it's not that hard to see where we'll be adding additional co-op titles in the future. So what we agree on ,and I'm really, really thrilled that you're joining together with me, the EO Podcast Network. Just keep watching folks. I don't want to overstate things or make promises, but, there's a good chance if people are talking about employee ownership, they're going to be talking about it on one of our podcasts before too long.


Rodney North: [00:08:07] As they say, watch this space!


Bret Keisling: [00:08:09] Watch this space. Rodney, my friend. Thank you as always for coming back, I'm hopeful that maybe you will invite me on the Why Worker's Co-op? podcast, but as my expertise really is mostly ESOP, I'm afraid I might not qualify as an expert, but... [laughter] I'm looking forward to sharing with the audience your great work. I'm very excited and I appreciate you, my friend.


Rodney North: [00:08:29] Likewise.


Bret Keisling: [00:08:30] With that we will wrap things up. Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.

Bitsy McCann: [00:08:37] We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email Bret@KEISOP.com, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.


Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.


A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The ESOP Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.