Updated: Sep 13, 2021
A visionary leader in the worker cooperative movement, Carmen Huertas-Noble has spent her professional career laying the tracks for a sustainable worker cooperative sector in New York City and beyond. Known for her conviction, fortitude, and determination, the Fordham University Law School graduate and tenured Professor at CUNY School of Law, advocates for worker cooperatives as tools to fight income inequality and to alter traditional power and wealth dynamics. Her impact on worker cooperatives can be measured as a lawyer, a scholar and thought leader, an educator, and a policy developer and consultant.
With over 15 years of experience in law, public service has been a cornerstone in Carmen’s career. Having served as a Senior Staff Attorney in the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, Carmen counseled cooperatives in navigating legal entity formation options and on creating democratic governance structures. She partnered with the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC-NY) in creating COLORS, a worker-owned restaurant in Manhattan and with Green Worker Cooperatives to develop ReBuilders Source, a cooperative that collected and sold recycled construction materials and equipment.
As the Founding Director of the Community & Economic Development Clinic (CEDC) at CUNY Law School, Carmen has educated and trained over 200 students in cooperative law. In a field where there are few co-op attorney experts, Carmen’s supervision of her students and the law graduate fellowship program that she developed is creating a cadre of professionals needed for cooperative development and expansion. Her fellows develop a skill set that help the cooperative movement grow in areas like labor law, financing, intellectual property and LGBTQ-related issues. In addition, she co-developed a national worker cooperative certificate program curriculum for community colleges aimed to familiarize more people with the cooperative model and to prepare the next generation of worker-owners and cooperative technical assistance providers for ownership and/or careers in the growing cooperative economy.
She played a leading role in providing support to organizations that create and support worker-owned co-ops such as the Coalition to Transform Interfaith and the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives. Carmen is also a co-founder of 1worker 1vote, her clinic incorporated this NY-based non-profit inspired by over sixty-five years of the Mondragon cooperative ecosystem experience and focused on hybrid shared ownership models starting with the union-coop template. She has developed legal expertise in the model and has educated union leaders, government officials, academics, worker co-op incubators and worker cooperators on this model. When drafting cooperative project proposals, Carmen has been an invaluable resource to the NYC Deputy Mayor of Strategic Initiatives.
An original member of the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative (WCBDI), a group that has received $12 million to date from the New York City government to develop a city-wide ecosystem to grow and support the worker co-op movement, Carmen played an instrumental role in securing that funding. Carmen is also a trusted scholar, law professor and cooperative lawyer whose work is referenced by local, national and international public officials and lawmakers. In New York, her work has played a key role in the passage of numerous local and state legislation in New York, including S6794 in New York State which expands New York’s Education Law to provide employer skill-training grants to cooperatives and S6855 that amends New York’s Urban Development Corporation Act and the Economic Development Law to allow small, converted worker co-ops to apply for assistance from the Economic Development Fund, Carmen’s reach has been far and wide.
“Worker cooperatives can create jobs, but more importantly, they can correct and prevent some of the oppressive economic conditions marginalized communities are too often subject to under our current political and economic system,” said Carmen. An important ally for worker cooperatives, Carmen’s insight, experience, and tireless efforts are creating the eco-system worker cooperatives need to flourish.