Executive Director for the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Esteban Kelly is the Executive Director for the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) and is a worker-owner and co-founder of AORTA (Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance), a worker co-op that builds capacity for social justice projects through intersectional training and consulting. In his 25 years of organizing, he has been a compassionate leader and visionary strategist who inspires organizers by drawing on science fiction, social theory, and collective liberation.
Esteban infuses creative forces into solidarity economy, food sovereignty, and cooperative movements, coalescing these sectors in his efforts to expand economic democracy– chiefly by using the cooperative business model for community ownership and workers’ control. Esteban is a co-founder and former board President of the cross-sector Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). Internationally, Esteban has advocated for workplace democracy through the ICA (International Cooperative Alliance) and for land reform and other social movements from Canada to Brazil. In 2019 Esteban was elected to the board of the international worker co-op federation known as CICOPA. He has been a board member of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA–CLUSA) since 2011, which under their CLUSA program, has developed cooperatives in dozens of countries on five continents for over 50 years.
After many years as a PhD student of Marxist Geographers at the CUNY Graduate Center, Esteban exited academia (A.B.D), with a Masters in Anthropology. After graduate school Esteban worked at the New Economy Coalition and has since become an advisor to the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy and the independent musician-owned platform, Ampled. From 2009-2011, Esteban served as Vice President of the USFWC, and a founding board member of the Democracy At Work Institute (DAWI) and of the US Solidarity Economy Network. He is also a previous Director of Education & Training and Board President of NASCO (North American Students for Cooperation) where he was inducted into their Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2011. He served one term on the board of the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) and has emceed their Cooperative Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He currently serves as an advisor to the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy, to Beautiful Trouble- a global network of artist-activist trainers, to Ampled- a musician owned cooperative platform, and to the policy table and Alternatives Pod for the Movement for Black Lives.
Firmly rooted in West Philly, Esteban infuses popular education, systemic thinking, and anti-oppression analysis into all of his local organizing and advocacy work. In 2018, Esteban won a Philadelphia Social Innovation Award for Public Policy, the same year he helped get the Main Street Employee Ownership Act passed by Congress. Esteban served two terms as a mayoral appointee and one year as co-chair of the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council. His appointment followed eight years as a worker-owner at Mariposa Food Co-op, where he organized the grocery store's Food Justice and Anti-Racism working group and its staff collective, expanding food access in West Philly. His leadership in abolitionist frameworks of transformative justice stem from his 15 years of organizing with the Philly Stands Up collective, partially documented in his contribution to anthologies like “Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement.” His writing also appears in “Revolting New York: How 400 Years of Riot, Rebellion, Uprising, and Revolution Shaped a City,” and "When to Talk and When to Fight: The Strategic Choice Between Dialogue and Resistance" (PM Press).