Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ukiah's first barter market

Ukiah's first barter market: People trade goods and wares while getting a crash course on alternative currency
By MONICA STARK The Daily Journal
Updated: 03/08/2010 12:01:21 AM PST

In an effort to build social justice and get people what they need without them spending money, community members organized Ukiah's first ever barter market on Sunday at the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse, which resulted in about 40 people becoming local Time Bank members. The idea is that for every hour Time Bank members spend doing something for someone in the Time Bank community, they earn one time dollar, which some people on Sunday spent on locally made goods, be it produce, jewelry or other crafts. Others plan on trading in their time dollars for a service they want. Some offerings included: bellydance instruction and horseback trail rides.

Those who became Time Bank members received a crash course on how this alternative economy can change the world by changing the money economy, which they argue, does not value the kind of work it takes to create healthy homes, families and communities.

Jenn Douthit, one of the presenters used baby sitting as an example that is not very valued in society, yet it's an "extremely needed skill."

In Time Banking all people's time is of equal value, she explained. "So whether you got your master's degree in English and you're editing a paper for someone for $5; or you are using a shovel to dig up someone's plants they don't want in their garden anymore-- that is equal time. So we don't value one person's skill over another occupation based on their education or opportunities. We're all spending the same amount of time to do it."

However, time dollars aren't intended to be a currency that replaces money, organizer Julia Frech explained. They are intended to create a means and incentive for people to help each other. "You would never tell your friend or neighbor, for example, if he needed help in some way, that: I'll help you for an hour now, if you help me for five hours later.' This would undoubtably create some resentment," Frech said.

One of the concerns about Time Bank systems is that it can weed out high demand jobs, such as lawyers or doctors, who need of a lot of education to get to where they are and who might be less likely to trade their services than a tutor or massage therapist.

Frech said that she's come across some literature that tells of doctors in other Time Banks who will see patients for time dollars. "To them, they feel good about serving those that don't have the means to pay them, and because the patients are still giving up something of value, they are more likely to heed the doctor's orders," Frech said.

She said that there hasn't been any targeted new member recruitment yet, but in the near future she is planning to approach organizations serving the needy, as well as professionals whose services tend to be well valued in the current economy. "I imagine those with lots of well paid work, if they do participate, will do so because they want to give back to their community, and a Time Bank is a great way to do that," she said.

Those who bartered goods for other goods on Sunday (rather than in exchange for time dollars), are required to file Form 1099-B and include all transactions to the Internal Revenue Service.

On the other hand, time dollars, Frech said, have been ruled tax exempt by the IRS. "(Because) an hour is always valued at one hour, there is no legal responsibility on anyone's part to redeem a time dollar, and the purpose of time dollars is charitable."

Items that were traded on Sunday in time dollars, followed a general rule, which was to charge time dollars (One time dollar = One hour) for the time it takes to make something, and money for the raw materials. Examples included handmade items and produce. Further, Frech explained that a Time Bank can't set an exchange rate between time dollars/hours and money, because if there were an equivalent, it would become taxable.

"This is one reason the Time Bank model is so attractive-- members are making a commitment to value people's time equally," she said.

Monica Stark can be reached at udjfeatures@pacific.net

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