Jay Cumberland

  • Hosted by The Sustainable Economies Law Center
  • Sponsored by eBay Foundation
  • Service location Oakland, California
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area Community/Economic Development
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

This project cultivated community well-being by helping Bay Area working-class communities of color anchor themselves against displacement by collectively buying their workplaces and dwelling places.

Working-class communities of color are increasingly striving to anchor themselves against displacement and precarity by collectively buying their workplaces and dwelling places. Businesses and business owners receive representation in these transactions; workers almost never do. Tenant organizations cede negotiations to community land trusts; they put their fate in the hands of others. Jay worked to ensure workers and tenants receive legal representation as they strive for self-determination.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Jay:

  • Represented a restaurant group and a newspaper in worker co-op conversions. Learned firsthand the inadequacy of trying to stand between a business owner and workers by representing the business in these fundamental transactions. Began charting a new way forward for worker co-op conversions;
  • Represented the resident association at a 200-unit apartment complex in rejecting a substantial rehabilitation proposal that would have removed hope of resident control in identifying funding sources that would allow resident control, and in negotiating with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to secure an ownership change putting the resident association in control;
  • Successfully represented a nonprofit in converting to worker self-determination;
  • Provided brief advice to 70 clients through SELC legal cafes;
  • Spoke frequently about the need for worker-centric worker co-op conversions. As a result, became a go-to resource for unions and worker groups exploring worker-centric worker co-op conversions involving labor conflict;
  • Presented to Office of Senate Presentation Pro Tempore Atkins and Oakland Councilmember Nikki Bas.

Next Steps

Post-fellowship, Jay will continue working at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Jay’s main goal will be intervening in the United States’ burgeoning worker co-op conversion industry to ensure conversions happen in a worker-centric way in alignment with labor movement strategy. Jay’s secondary goal will be serving as a limited equity housing cooperative advocate holding the largely unoccupied space between tenant organizations and community land trusts in California.


Where next after Covid-19?A co-operative outlook in the USA

Meet Other Fellows Like Jay

View All

Photo of Brenda Pfahnl

Brenda Pfahnl

Host: Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

Sponsor: 3M Company, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath

Current Fellow

Shiva Prakash

Host: New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Sponsor: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Photo of Miles Malbrough

Miles Malbrough

Host: Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands

Sponsor: Albert & Anne Mansfield Foundation

Current Fellow

Amber VanSchuyver

Host: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.

Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation