Law clinics for green-collar worker-run businesses

“GC3 founding director Sushil Jacob ’11 (center) with members of the New Hope Farms Cooperative.” Credit: U.C. Berkeley School of Law

The Green-Collar Communities Clinic (CG3) is the first and only law school clinic of its kind in the country: free legal, business, and technical assistance focused on worker-owned “green” enterprise. Sponsored by the U.C. Berkeley School of Law and the East Bay Community Law Center, the Clinic offers attorneys and law student interns who can help would-be entrepreneurs take their business ideas from conception to reality. The organization’s driving mission: catalyze and empower more people in low-income, racially diverse communities to launch and run pro-worker businesses in the new green economy.

Recently highlighted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, GC3’s clients include:

A nonprofit that operates a farm and community-supported agriculture project that employs formerly incarcerated people in Alameda County,
A multi-stakeholder solar energy cooperative in Oakland,
A youth-entrepreneurship hub supporting youth-led social enterprises in Oakland,
A cooperatively-managed maker space and education center in North Oakland,
A green home-cleaning cooperatives, and
A youth-entrepreneurship hub supporting youth-led social enterprises in Oakland.

As the law clinic’s founder, Sushil Jacob, explained to the law school’s Transcript Magazine, the organization is focused on the worker co-operative business model in particular because it generates more bang for the buck—and in the areas where the need is the greatest:

It’s a big win, says Jacob, because co-ops support “lasting employment, sustainable business practices, and more resilient communities during economic downturns.”

One example of the potential impact of worker co-ops is a cleaning collective formed by primarily immigrant Latinas. In an industry where they’d be treated as under-the-table workers, Jacob says, “With minimal investment, they increased their bargaining power, increased wages, and invested profits into health insurance.”

As understaffed and oversubscribed as they are already, let’s hope other law schools and legal aid organizations across the country will take a closer look at the Green-Collar Communities Clinic and follow suit in their own neighborhoods. For more information, see “Clinic Helps Co-ops Set Up Shop,” U.C. Berkeley School of Law (2016); “Green-Collar Communities Clinic,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2016); and Green-Collar Communities Clinic (2016).