Building a Just and Equitable Economy

The Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC) is the City of Madison’s funded initiative to form worker cooperatives that address income inequality and racial disparities by creating living-wage and union jobs. We are a collaborative of community-based organizations, labor unions and cooperative developers. MCDC works to support the growth and creation of worker cooperatives, specifically addressing the factors affecting local communities of color, low wealth and traditionally excluded workforces. The goal is to create a sustainable system that will combat poverty, empower workers and increase equity in order to strengthen Madison’s long-term economic health.

MCDC milestone reflections: City of Madison grant-writing process

“Madison, like a growing number of United States cities, is embracing worker cooperatives as a strategy to create jobs that build wealth and increase equity. Its 2016 Cooperative Enterprise Development Program (CEDP) will allocate $3 million to worker cooperative development targeted to low-wage workers and communities of color over the next five years. Yet even before the first funds were disbursed, the program had already fostered a new level of local cooperation through the establishment of the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC).” -Laura Hanson Schlachter, MCDC Documentarian and UW-Madison Sociology PhD candidate

Read Full Document Here

To learn more about the City of Madison Initiative and the story of MCDC’s formation: Press Release | Local Government Support for Cooperatives | MCDC’s Brochure

Interim Steering Committee

Courtney Berner

Courtney Berner joined the University Of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives in 2011 and served as a cooperative development specialist until assuming the role of executive director in January 2018. As the executive director, she develops courses, conferences, and other educational programs and works closely with the Center’s faculty director on the Center’s strategic direction. Courtney teaches a course on cooperatives at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that focuses on the role and management of cooperatives, cooperative groups, and collective action.

Courtney has provided support to new and established cooperatives of all types and in a range of industries including agriculture, grocery, manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and forestry. Her areas of expertise include business development, cooperative finance and governance, and innovative uses of the cooperative model. Courtney writes and speaks frequently on the cooperative business model and recently co-authoredCoordinating Farm Labor Across Farms: A Toolbox for Diversified Farmers and Farmworkers with Farm Commons.

Prior to joining the Center, Courtney worked at the World watch Institute, an independent research institute devoted to global environmental concerns. Courtney holds an M.S. in agroecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and bachelor’s degrees in biology, French, and environmental studies from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Courtney served on the Willy Street Grocery Co-op Board from 2013-2016 and currently serves on the Wisconsin Economic Development Association’s Board.

Contact info: (608) 890-0966 or

Eric Upchurch II

Eric Steven Upchurch II is an entrepreneur, strategic development consultant, foreign economy technical analyst, community activist, educator and researcher. He teaches mindfulness and meditation in addition to stewarding entrepreneurial and economic empowerment initiatives. Prior to his current roles, Eric served as the Interim Executive Director for Madison’s Black Chamber of Commerce, Director of Development and Marketing for the YWCA Madison, and 9 years as the CEO of ESUCEO Inc. Previous work included counseling and case management with Briarpatch and AmeriCorp as well as community engagement and grass roots organizing with Operation Welcome Home focusing on agency for people experiencing homelessness. Graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a BS in Consumer Affairs/Business, Eric is learned in meditation, as a professional trader, orator, chief executive, strategist, development professional, mediator, organizer and counselor – delivering a variety of trainings from conflict resolution and business development to mindfulness and meditation.

Having an innate skill of innovation rooted in a spiritual perspective, labor and service, Eric’s advice has taken companies global and framed the seeds of developing success. Eric leans on lesson failures, accomplishments, embarrassments, knowledgeable advice, and a deep spiritual awareness in experience to move through the world with love as a global citizen.

Today, Eric is the Chief Visionary at Opportunity Inc. with a host of community focused as well as for-profit initiatives, one of the Lead Organizers for the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, founder of The Council Of Communities, Economic Empowerment WI, the Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment, Practically Mindful, and father to Messiah Amun Grayson.


Martha Kemble

Martha has been active in the worker cooperative community for the past 15 years.  As a member/owner at Union Cab of Madison Cooperative since 2003, she has worked in the Dispatch, Human Resources and Finance offices at Union Cab.  Martha sits on Union Cab’s Board of Directors, and serves as the Chair to the Policy Committee.  She previously served on the Education, Governance and Solidarity Committees. In 2014, Martha was a founding member of Codeversant, a software development worker cooperative, working as administrative backup. She is also a founding member of Common Good Bookkeeping Cooperative, a union worker cooperative, that incorporated in 2018 with MCDC’s support.

Martha is active with MadWorC (Madison Worker Cooperatives), a network of worker cooperatives in and around Madison since 2009. Martha has extensive training with worker cooperative development. In 2016 she completed the first session of cooperative development training through Cooperation Works!, and will complete the full program this year. In 2012 she participated in the Democracy at Work Network (DAWN) training program, and became certified as a Peer Adviser to other worker cooperatives across the country upon completion of the one-year program. She is also a sustaining member of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives.

Other local community commitments include serving on the Steering Committee and as Treasurer for Progressive Dane, and serving on the Board and as Treasurer for the Social Justice Center.


 Charity Schmidt

Charity Schmidt is a cooperative development specialist at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, providing technical assistance to start-up cooperatives and facilitating outreach efforts to cooperators and community-based organizations. She has published work ranging in topics from diversity in and access to service learning, sociology in action beyond the university, and the crisis facing bee colonies.

She has masters degrees in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies, and Sociology from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught classes on social theory, sociology of race and ethnicity, and American contemporary society at Madison College and UW-Madison. She formerly worked as an Organizer with the South Central Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and currently serves on the Board of Worker Justice Wisconsin.

Steve Herrick

Steve is the Organizational Development Specialist (or coordinator) the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC), the City of Madison’s initiative to form worker cooperatives that address income inequality and racial disparities by creating living-wage and union jobs.

He is the founder and president of the Interpreters’ Cooperative of Madison, and spearheaded the creation of the Common Good Bookkeeping Cooperative. He has a Masters in the Science of Information from the University of Michigan. He has worked for several non-profits in Madison, and prior to moving here, spent five years living and working in Nicaragua.


Laura Hanson Schlachter

Laura Hanson Schlachter is a PhD candidate in sociology at UW-Madison who studies social movements, the solidarity economy, and climate change. She has served as the MCDC Documentarian since 2015 by conducting ongoing participant observation, interviews, and document analysis related to the initiative. You can find her case study of the MCDC grant writing process here. Laura has also published about the union co-op movement in the United States and directed the first national survey of cooperative workers with the Democracy at Work Institute.