The Chomp initiative is now being replicated in six cities, one of them being Jersey City in New Jersey. New Jersey also happens to be one of only eight states where state chartered credit unions can make direct equity investments into other cooperatives. Unfortunately, only one credit union, Vermont State Employee Credit Union, is using this legislation and investing in other cooperatives. This is an example of a potentially very useful legal tool that goes underutilised.
There are many examples of new legislation that seeks to help cooperatives, but is never or rarely used. Alongside making new and better legislation, the cooperative movement should also try to find ways to utilise the existing legislation better. A specific and immediate instance where an existing underutilised legislation could be especially useful is for local credit unions to invest in the platform cooperative formed by the restaurants in Jersey City.
However, there is a lot any credit union or other cooperative in any state can do. It’s common for credit unions to provide discounts in other businesses for their members: a typical item could be 30% off from movie tickets. It’s common for restaurant cooperatives to promote themselves with discounts: a typical example could be a coupon code for free first delivery. Local credit unions could simply email their members a discount code for free first delivery from a restaurant owned platform cooperative in the six cities where the Iowa success story is replicated.
This would provide tangible benefit in the everyday life of ordinary credit union members. It would also embed them to a wider cooperative ecosystem generating widespread community wealth and social capital. It would help the restaurant cooperatives to reach the mass membership of local credit unions when trying to find people to send their coupon codes to. It would save the cooperative organisers effort and reduce uncertainty when doing marketing, all without enriching big tech intermediaries like with Facebook or Google. Instead, they could directly reach out to the around one third of adults in the country who are credit union members via email, or through the credit union’s own app.