Worker Cooperatives

2016

How Urban Governments Are Promoting Worker Co-ops

Michelle Camou, Grassroots Economic Organizing

City governments are shaping up as key actors accelerating worker co-op development. 

Rochester Mayor: Investing in Co-ops Builds “Stairway Out of Poverty”

Oscar Perry Abello
Next City

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announces an amazing city initiative to build community wealth. We've been working with the Rochester municipal government to develop a plan to uplift communities by investing in worker-owned businesses, inspired in part by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. As this article from Next City describes, the plan involves the creation of a community-owned and -operated "Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corporation" to oversee the effort.

Can Worker-Owned Cooperatives Compete?

Sheilah Kast and Andrea Appleton
WYPR Baltimore

John Duda, Communications Director for the Democracy Collaborative and co-founder of Red Emma’s, a worker-owned coffee shop in Baltimore, joins Sheilah Kast and Andrea Appleton of Baltimore's WYPR Radio to discuss worker ownership in today's economy.

Want to Hire a Worker-Owned Co-op? There’s an App for That

Michelle Stearn
Yes! Magazine

Originally published on Community-Wealth.org, this article by The Democracy Collaborative's Michelle Stearn highlights the work of Si Se Puede!, the Robin Hood Foundation, and a Cornell Tech graduate student program, all of whom converged as a team to develop an app for worker cooperative bookings:

2015

Worker Cooperative Law Passes in the California State Assembly

The California Worker Cooperative Policy Coalition

On May 22, the California State Assembly passed AB816, a major step toward making California the twelfth state to establish a legal form speci cally for worker cooperatives. This campaign is building on the momentum of worker cooperative policy initiatives happening throughout the country—including a $1.2 million dollar funding initiative in New York City last summer—as the cooperative business form gains recognition as a powerful tool for economic revitalization. 

How Economic Development Can Build 'Community Wealth'

Anne Field
Forbes

Journalist Anne Field unpacts the Democracy Collaborative publication Educate and Empower: Tools for Building Community Wealth, highlighting the eleven case studies from the original report.

Is it Time for a New New Deal?

James M. Larkin and Zach Goldhammer
The Nation
Our economy is broken. Could a universal basic income, child allowances, and worker-owned cooperatives fix it? The Democracy Collaborative's Gar Alperovitz, alongside other economists and activists, sheds light on the issue.

Springfield's Wellspring Collaborative featured in report on initiatives that spur economic growth in low-income areas

Laura Newberry
MassLive

From an upholstery cooperative to a worker-owned greenhouse, the Wellspring Collaborative is rebuilding the economically struggling communities of Springfield, MA. This article from MassLive, a local news site for Western Massachusetts, reports on the Wellspring Collaborative—one of eleven case studies from our newest report, Educate and Empower: Tools For Building Community Wealth.

The upholstery company is the umbrella organization's first business, with a worker-owned greenhouse in the works. While building a small but dependable staff has proven more difficult than expected, according to Wellspring's directors, the upholstery company has been able to rope in loyal and repeat business from what economists call "anchor institutions," namely hospital groups and colleges such as Baystate Health and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"With a modest amount of start-up money—about $160,000—Wellspring incubated an upholstery cooperative currently employing five individuals, two of whom are citizens returning from the incarceration system. Six people are expected to become cooperative members in the first year, with further build-up over the second," the report goes on to say.

The Democracy Collaborative has been helpful to Wellspring from the get-go, Kawano said. The organization was heavily involved in the formation of the Cleveland Evergreen Cooperatives, which provided the inspiration and framework for Wellspring.

2014

Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movement

Marissa Mommaerts , Ken White and Ben Roberts
Post Carbon Institute

The Post Carbon Institute and Collective Conversations interviewed 18 leaders, including Democracy Collaborative Communications Coordinator John Duda, for a new report on the possibilities for a new, more equitable and democratized economy. Building off of conversations from the Community Resilience and New Economy Network, the collected interviews help to connect different social movements and present creative solutions and alternatives to our current extractive economy. Full transcripts of each interview are also available online.

Worker Co-ops on The Rise in New York

Spencer Rumsey
Long Island Press

A look at the rise of worker cooperatives in NYC against the backdrop of a growing national movement.

2013

Why Unions Are Going Into the Co-op Business: The steelworkers deal that could turn the rust belt green.

Amy Dean
Yes! Magazine

In a recent article in YES! Magazine –— whose Spring 2013 issue is centered on cooperatives in the new economy — author Amy Dean looks at how the United Steelworkers (USW) union is aiming to use employee-run businesses to create new, middle-class jobs to replace union work that has shifted overseas. Union co-ops differ from other worker-owned co-ops in that they allow worker-owners to appoint a management team and then bargain collectively with management. Citing the Evergreen Cooperatives as a model, USW has started pilot cooperative organizing efforts in Pennsylvania and Ohio, including the Pittsburgh Clean and Green Laundry Cooperative and the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative. The latter already has one co-op up and running — an urban food hub enterprise called Our Harvest.

A New Era for Worker Ownership, 5 Years in the Making

Kari Lydersen
In these Times

Last month, New Era Windows Cooperative opened as a worker-owned cooperative in Chicago after a five-year struggle to preserve their livelihoods. This In These Times article by author Kari Lydersen details the workers’ struggle that began in 2008 when Republic Windows and Doors threatened to shutter the factory, inspiring the workers to occupy the facility.  After the new buyer Serious Metals failed to bring the business back, the workers decided to take matters into their own hands, negotiating a buy-out of all the equipment and the facility itself with the help of the United Electrical Workers union. The new worker-owners worked with the microfinance group The Working World to help finance the purchase and with the Center for Workplace Democracy to learn the ins-and-outs of business management.

Bringing Wealth Creation Closer to Low-Income Communities

Fred Rose

This article in the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Magazine Communities & Banking, highlights the Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative, a new worker-owned business supported by over fifteen anchor institutions and community-based organizations in Springfield, Massachusetts. Established by the Wellspring Collaborative, a network of worker-owned companies modeled after the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and Mondragón Cooperative Cooperation in Spain, the upholstery cooperative will leverage the purchasing power of anchor institutions to employ ex-offenders and the underemployed.

2012

Owning Your Own Job is a Beautiful Thing: Community Wealth Building in Cleveland, Ohio

Ted Howard
Investing in What Works for America’s Communities

Ted Howard contributed this essay to Investing in What Works for America’s Communities, a book published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund that calls on leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build on what we know is working to move the needle on poverty.

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

1990

n/a

2016

Cooperatives in Minneapolis: An inventory and assessment

Emily Anderson and Tom Pierson

Published by the City of Minneapolis’ Office of Community Planning and Economic Development, this report inventories and assesses worker, consumer, and producer cooperatives in Minneapolis. The authors find access to start-up capital and real estate, as well as a dearth of knowledge on cooperative governance structures and city regulations, as some of the most common challenges facing the development of cooperatives in the city. To minimize these barriers, the authors recommend creating a cooperative technical assistance network and investing in cooperative education for city employees

2015

Worker Cooperative Industry Research Series: Craft Beer

Tim Palmer

The craft brewing industry presents an interesting possible route to scale for worker cooperative development. The industry, incredibly, is still growing after more than two decades of upward trends. Moreover, the independent and artisan workplace culture fostered by owners and workers alike has made some rms more receptive to employee ownership. The success of Black Star Brewery and Pub Co-Op, as well as the ESOP-owned New Belgium Brewing Company provide models for replication and education. Worker cooperative developer participation in this industry has been minimal to date, though a sustained focus here could make an important impact. 

Worker Cooperatives in a Globalizing World

Allen White and Josu Ugarte

The Mondragon Corporation, based in the Basque Region of Spain, is a renowned worker-owned multinational cooperative enterprise founded in 1956 on the principle of “worker sovereignty.” Allen White, Senior Fellow at Tellus Institute, explores the credo, strategy, and promise of global cooperative enterprises with Josu Ugarte, former president of Mondragon International. 

2014

2013

US Worker Cooperatives: A State of the Sector

Democracy at Work Institute

The Democracy at Work Institute conducted a national survey of worker cooperative firms to start to answer some basic questions and lay the groundwork for future longitudinal studies. To our knowledge, this is the first nationwide survey to solely target worker cooperatives. We used publicly available data to identify basic information about 256 worker cooperatives operating in the US in 2013 (due to lack of a central registry and recent rapid growth, this is likely an undercount). 109 of these cooperatives then submitted substantial responses to our survey questions. The data set represents a combination of these two sources. For each survey question the exact number of cooperatives with available data varies, as the response rate for each question differed. Included are some key questions addressed by their responses. 

2012

Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model

Rob Witherell, Chris Cooper and Michael Peck

Template developed by the United Steelworkers in partnership with Mondragón to meld collective bargaining with cooperative ownership.

2011

2009

2006

2005

2004

2017

Workers to Owners: 2017 Annual Impact Report

Democracy at Work Institute

Published by the Democracy at Work Institute, this new report discusses the accomplishments of the first year of the Workers to Owners Collaborative, launched in 2016 to catalyze business conversions to cooperative ownership. Participating organizations collectively created 215 opportunities for new worker-owners and facilitated the transfer of over $8 million in business assets from retiring owners to employees.

2016

Taking Employee Ownership to Scale: Learning + Design Session

Democracy at Work Institute, The Democracy Collaborative

On June 13 and 14, 2016 in Washington, DC, many of the nation’s leading experts in employee ownership, sustainable business and finance, community and economic development, and philanthropy came together in a Learning + Design session. Co-hosts for the meeting were Marjorie Kelly and Jessica Bonanno of The Democracy Collaborative and Camille Kerr of Democracy at Work Institute. The purpose of the session was to discuss how to achieve unprecedented scale of employee ownership by focusing on achieving an audacious goal: 50 million U.S. employee-owners by 2050. This report summarizes and expands upon the June meeting:

Rochester’s Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corporation: A Feasibility Analysis & Implementation Plan

Jessica Bonanno, Violeta Duncan and Ted Howard

The City of Rochester's Office of Innovation, under the leadership of Mayor Lovely Warren, has been coordinating a project to develop worker-owned cooperative businesses as part of a comprehensive wealth building strategy for Rochester, New York.

In 2015 the City engaged The Democracy Collaborative, a group with extensive expertise from similar work in Cleveland Ohio in connection with the Evergreen Cooperatives and the Greater University Circle Initiative. The Democracy Collaborative completed a study in February 2016 that documented incredible potential for the project, a high degree of community support including local Anchor Institution buy-in, as well as several potential business niches for future worker-owned businesses. The report also includes an implementation plan to move the project forward in two additional phases, the first of which was approved to proceed by the Rochester City Council on March 22nd, 2016.

We Own It: A Guide to Worker Co-ops in NYC

Ingrid Haftel and Sandy Xu
The Center for Urban Pedagogy

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) teamed up with Sunset Park-based Center for Family Life, designer Amanda Buck, and illustrator Melissa Crowton to create We Own It, a fold-out poster that breaks down how worker co-ops work. Visuals and text in Spanish and English compare worker co-ops to typical businesses, explain the steps that go into starting or joining one, and show what a day on the job looks like for a worker-owner. 

The Cooperative Growth Ecosystem

Melissa Hoover and Hilary Abell
The Democracy At Work Institute, Project Equity

This second paper in Citi Community Development’s Building the Inclusive Economy series focuses on scaling worker cooperatives as a means to create quality jobs and wealth-building opportunities for low-income workers. Authored by Hillary Abell, Co-founder of Project Equity, and Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, the report draws from the experiences of Cincinnati, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area, and western North Carolina to develop a framework for understanding the successful components of a “cooperative growth ecosystem.” These include collaboration across sectors, diverse funding streams, and a “guiding coalition” to create a strategic vision:

Broad-Based Ownership Models as Tools for Job Creation and Community Development

Marjorie Kelly, Steve Dubb and Violeta Duncan

As cities wrestle with the growing challenge of wealth inequality, more and more leaders are looking to broad-based ownership models as tools to create jobs and build community wealth. These models are highly effective, with a positive impact for low- and moderate-income individuals and communities. This report looks at six such models—ESOPs, Worker Cooperatives, CDFIs, Social Enterprises, Municipal Ownership, and Emerging Hybrids—with examples of best practices, and explores how these models can be used in community economic development.

Ours to Share: How Worker-Ownership Can Change the American Economy

Sanjay Pinto and The Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation

This report from The Surdna Foundation delves into the world of worker ownership, detailing models and best practices, from the Cleveland Model developed by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Ohio to the role of foundations and philanthropy in developing worker-owned business strategies:

Reducing Economic Inequality through Democratic Worker-Ownership

Shannon Rieger

Amongst developed nations, the U.S. is a leader in unequal income distribution. But according to a recent Century Foundation report on the role of worker-ownership models, this is a trend that can be changed. The author examines how a cohesive national regulatory framework, national tax incentives, a U.S. employee ownership bank, and increased support for employee-ownership technical assistance centers can bolster U.S. worker-buyout policy. In aligning regulatory, technical, and financial support for worker-cooperatives, the United States can bring scale to this key economic equalizer. 

2015

Beyond Business as Usual: Putting Cooperation to Work in Austin, TX

This report from Cooperation Texas examines the nature and benefits of the cooperative model and identifies barriers and opportunities for worker co-op development. There is a growing economic divide in Austin and worker cooperatives can play a role in addressing these conditions as part of a more equitable approach to community economic development.

Successful Cooperative Ownership Transitions: Case Studies on the Conversion of Privately Held Businesses to Worker Cooperatives

With 70 percent of privately held businesses expected to change hands over the next two decades and 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day (many of whom lack succession plans), the nation has the opportunity to preserve these businesses by converting them to worker cooperatives. This new report from the Democracy at Work Institute and the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives provides case studies of successful cooperative ownership transitions for cafés in Washington and Oregon; an architecture, building, and energy business in Massachusetts; a natural conservation consultancy firm in Wisconsin; and a landscaping business in Massachusetts. The authors examine how owner involvement, financing, governance structure, and other critical factors affect the conversion process and highlight the need for greater technical assistance and peer support from the cooperative community. 

Energy Democracy: Namasté Solar, a profile in cooperative ownership

Jarrid Green
Center for Social Inclusion

Our Research Associate Jarrid Green authored this report, highlighting the successes of Namasté Solar in democratizing energy in Colorado:

Case Studies: Business Conversions to Worker Cooperatives—Insights and Readiness Factors for Owners and Employees

Alison Lingane and Shannon Rieger

These 12 case studies explore the practical promises and pitfalls of converting existing businesses to worker cooperative ownership—a key strategy for building more democratic workplaces. 

Impact to Last: Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Enterprise

Ben Thornley, Jacquelyn Anderson and Lauren Dixon

In these eight case studies, REDF (a California-based nonprofit, has led the pioneering effort to create jobs and employment opportunities for people facing the greatest barriers to work) highlights the work of social enterprise leaders around the country. By surveying groups such as the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio, REDF showcases the principal drivers of achieving scale and success, and paving the way towards a more inclusive economy.

2014

Community Investment in the Local Food System

Jonathon Ward, Margaret Christie, Addie Rose Holland, Dan Rosenberg, Jeff Rosen and Sam Stegman

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) published a new case study on Real Pickles, an organic food business that raised half a million dollars through a community investment campaign to transition to worker ownership.

2012

Understanding Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Nina K. Dastur

Published by the Center for Community Change, this guide for community organizers provides a broad view of the benefits of worker-owned cooperatives and shows how they align with the goals of grassroots organizing groups. Author Nina Daskur demonstrates how cooperatives uphold the principles of solidarity and democracy that are the foundation of community organizing, and are especially relevant in the current economic and political climate. Intended to lay out both the advantages and challenges of a co-operative business model, the paper profiles worker-owned cooperatives in four different service occupations that are typically characterized by low wages –home health care, child care, food service, and housecleaning –and identifies useable mechanisms that organizers could undertake to help advance alternative ownership in communities.

Understanding Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Nina K. Dastur

Published by the Center for Community Change, this guide for community organizers provides a broad view of the benefits of worker-owned cooperatives and shows how they align with the goals of grassroots organizing groups. Author Nina Daskur demonstrates how cooperatives uphold the principles of solidarity and democracy that are the foundation of community organizing, and are especially relevant in the current economic and political climate. Intended to lay out both the advantages and challenges of a co-operative business model, the paper profiles worker-owned cooperatives in four different service occupations that are typically characterized by low wages –home health care, child care, food service, and housecleaning –and identifies useable mechanisms that organizers could undertake to help advance alternative ownership in communities.

2006

2004

How Urban Governments Are Promoting Worker Co-ops

Michelle Camou, Grassroots Economic Organizing

City governments are shaping up as key actors accelerating worker co-op development. 

Rochester Mayor: Investing in Co-ops Builds “Stairway Out of Poverty”

Oscar Perry Abello
Next City

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announces an amazing city initiative to build community wealth. We've been working with the Rochester municipal government to develop a plan to uplift communities by investing in worker-owned businesses, inspired in part by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. As this article from Next City describes, the plan involves the creation of a community-owned and -operated "Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corporation" to oversee the effort.

Can Worker-Owned Cooperatives Compete?

Sheilah Kast and Andrea Appleton
WYPR Baltimore

John Duda, Communications Director for the Democracy Collaborative and co-founder of Red Emma’s, a worker-owned coffee shop in Baltimore, joins Sheilah Kast and Andrea Appleton of Baltimore's WYPR Radio to discuss worker ownership in today's economy.

Want to Hire a Worker-Owned Co-op? There’s an App for That

Michelle Stearn
Yes! Magazine

Originally published on Community-Wealth.org, this article by The Democracy Collaborative's Michelle Stearn highlights the work of Si Se Puede!, the Robin Hood Foundation, and a Cornell Tech graduate student program, all of whom converged as a team to develop an app for worker cooperative bookings:

Worker Cooperative Law Passes in the California State Assembly

The California Worker Cooperative Policy Coalition

On May 22, the California State Assembly passed AB816, a major step toward making California the twelfth state to establish a legal form speci cally for worker cooperatives. This campaign is building on the momentum of worker cooperative policy initiatives happening throughout the country—including a $1.2 million dollar funding initiative in New York City last summer—as the cooperative business form gains recognition as a powerful tool for economic revitalization. 

How Economic Development Can Build 'Community Wealth'

Anne Field
Forbes

Journalist Anne Field unpacts the Democracy Collaborative publication Educate and Empower: Tools for Building Community Wealth, highlighting the eleven case studies from the original report.

Is it Time for a New New Deal?

James M. Larkin and Zach Goldhammer
The Nation
Our economy is broken. Could a universal basic income, child allowances, and worker-owned cooperatives fix it? The Democracy Collaborative's Gar Alperovitz, alongside other economists and activists, sheds light on the issue.

Springfield's Wellspring Collaborative featured in report on initiatives that spur economic growth in low-income areas

Laura Newberry
MassLive

From an upholstery cooperative to a worker-owned greenhouse, the Wellspring Collaborative is rebuilding the economically struggling communities of Springfield, MA. This article from MassLive, a local news site for Western Massachusetts, reports on the Wellspring Collaborative—one of eleven case studies from our newest report, Educate and Empower: Tools For Building Community Wealth.

The upholstery company is the umbrella organization's first business, with a worker-owned greenhouse in the works. While building a small but dependable staff has proven more difficult than expected, according to Wellspring's directors, the upholstery company has been able to rope in loyal and repeat business from what economists call "anchor institutions," namely hospital groups and colleges such as Baystate Health and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"With a modest amount of start-up money—about $160,000—Wellspring incubated an upholstery cooperative currently employing five individuals, two of whom are citizens returning from the incarceration system. Six people are expected to become cooperative members in the first year, with further build-up over the second," the report goes on to say.

The Democracy Collaborative has been helpful to Wellspring from the get-go, Kawano said. The organization was heavily involved in the formation of the Cleveland Evergreen Cooperatives, which provided the inspiration and framework for Wellspring.

Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movement

Marissa Mommaerts , Ken White and Ben Roberts
Post Carbon Institute

The Post Carbon Institute and Collective Conversations interviewed 18 leaders, including Democracy Collaborative Communications Coordinator John Duda, for a new report on the possibilities for a new, more equitable and democratized economy. Building off of conversations from the Community Resilience and New Economy Network, the collected interviews help to connect different social movements and present creative solutions and alternatives to our current extractive economy. Full transcripts of each interview are also available online.

Worker Co-ops on The Rise in New York

Spencer Rumsey
Long Island Press

A look at the rise of worker cooperatives in NYC against the backdrop of a growing national movement.

Why Unions Are Going Into the Co-op Business: The steelworkers deal that could turn the rust belt green.

Amy Dean
Yes! Magazine

In a recent article in YES! Magazine –— whose Spring 2013 issue is centered on cooperatives in the new economy — author Amy Dean looks at how the United Steelworkers (USW) union is aiming to use employee-run businesses to create new, middle-class jobs to replace union work that has shifted overseas. Union co-ops differ from other worker-owned co-ops in that they allow worker-owners to appoint a management team and then bargain collectively with management. Citing the Evergreen Cooperatives as a model, USW has started pilot cooperative organizing efforts in Pennsylvania and Ohio, including the Pittsburgh Clean and Green Laundry Cooperative and the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative. The latter already has one co-op up and running — an urban food hub enterprise called Our Harvest.

A New Era for Worker Ownership, 5 Years in the Making

Kari Lydersen
In these Times

Last month, New Era Windows Cooperative opened as a worker-owned cooperative in Chicago after a five-year struggle to preserve their livelihoods. This In These Times article by author Kari Lydersen details the workers’ struggle that began in 2008 when Republic Windows and Doors threatened to shutter the factory, inspiring the workers to occupy the facility.  After the new buyer Serious Metals failed to bring the business back, the workers decided to take matters into their own hands, negotiating a buy-out of all the equipment and the facility itself with the help of the United Electrical Workers union. The new worker-owners worked with the microfinance group The Working World to help finance the purchase and with the Center for Workplace Democracy to learn the ins-and-outs of business management.

Bringing Wealth Creation Closer to Low-Income Communities

Fred Rose

This article in the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Magazine Communities & Banking, highlights the Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative, a new worker-owned business supported by over fifteen anchor institutions and community-based organizations in Springfield, Massachusetts. Established by the Wellspring Collaborative, a network of worker-owned companies modeled after the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and Mondragón Cooperative Cooperation in Spain, the upholstery cooperative will leverage the purchasing power of anchor institutions to employ ex-offenders and the underemployed.

Owning Your Own Job is a Beautiful Thing: Community Wealth Building in Cleveland, Ohio

Ted Howard
Investing in What Works for America’s Communities

Ted Howard contributed this essay to Investing in What Works for America’s Communities, a book published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund that calls on leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build on what we know is working to move the needle on poverty.

When Workers Own Their Companies, Everyone Wins

Sean McElwee

This New Republic article explores how cooperatives can support a green and democratic economy.

Cooperatives in Minneapolis: An inventory and assessment

Emily Anderson and Tom Pierson

Published by the City of Minneapolis’ Office of Community Planning and Economic Development, this report inventories and assesses worker, consumer, and producer cooperatives in Minneapolis. The authors find access to start-up capital and real estate, as well as a dearth of knowledge on cooperative governance structures and city regulations, as some of the most common challenges facing the development of cooperatives in the city. To minimize these barriers, the authors recommend creating a cooperative technical assistance network and investing in cooperative education for city employees

Worker Cooperative Industry Research Series: Craft Beer

Tim Palmer

The craft brewing industry presents an interesting possible route to scale for worker cooperative development. The industry, incredibly, is still growing after more than two decades of upward trends. Moreover, the independent and artisan workplace culture fostered by owners and workers alike has made some rms more receptive to employee ownership. The success of Black Star Brewery and Pub Co-Op, as well as the ESOP-owned New Belgium Brewing Company provide models for replication and education. Worker cooperative developer participation in this industry has been minimal to date, though a sustained focus here could make an important impact. 

Worker Cooperatives in a Globalizing World

Allen White and Josu Ugarte

The Mondragon Corporation, based in the Basque Region of Spain, is a renowned worker-owned multinational cooperative enterprise founded in 1956 on the principle of “worker sovereignty.” Allen White, Senior Fellow at Tellus Institute, explores the credo, strategy, and promise of global cooperative enterprises with Josu Ugarte, former president of Mondragon International. 

US Worker Cooperatives: A State of the Sector

Democracy at Work Institute

The Democracy at Work Institute conducted a national survey of worker cooperative firms to start to answer some basic questions and lay the groundwork for future longitudinal studies. To our knowledge, this is the first nationwide survey to solely target worker cooperatives. We used publicly available data to identify basic information about 256 worker cooperatives operating in the US in 2013 (due to lack of a central registry and recent rapid growth, this is likely an undercount). 109 of these cooperatives then submitted substantial responses to our survey questions. The data set represents a combination of these two sources. For each survey question the exact number of cooperatives with available data varies, as the response rate for each question differed. Included are some key questions addressed by their responses. 

Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model

Rob Witherell, Chris Cooper and Michael Peck

Template developed by the United Steelworkers in partnership with Mondragón to meld collective bargaining with cooperative ownership.

Workers to Owners: 2017 Annual Impact Report

Democracy at Work Institute

Published by the Democracy at Work Institute, this new report discusses the accomplishments of the first year of the Workers to Owners Collaborative, launched in 2016 to catalyze business conversions to cooperative ownership. Participating organizations collectively created 215 opportunities for new worker-owners and facilitated the transfer of over $8 million in business assets from retiring owners to employees.

Taking Employee Ownership to Scale: Learning + Design Session

Democracy at Work Institute, The Democracy Collaborative

On June 13 and 14, 2016 in Washington, DC, many of the nation’s leading experts in employee ownership, sustainable business and finance, community and economic development, and philanthropy came together in a Learning + Design session. Co-hosts for the meeting were Marjorie Kelly and Jessica Bonanno of The Democracy Collaborative and Camille Kerr of Democracy at Work Institute. The purpose of the session was to discuss how to achieve unprecedented scale of employee ownership by focusing on achieving an audacious goal: 50 million U.S. employee-owners by 2050. This report summarizes and expands upon the June meeting:

Rochester’s Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corporation: A Feasibility Analysis & Implementation Plan

Jessica Bonanno, Violeta Duncan and Ted Howard

The City of Rochester's Office of Innovation, under the leadership of Mayor Lovely Warren, has been coordinating a project to develop worker-owned cooperative businesses as part of a comprehensive wealth building strategy for Rochester, New York.

In 2015 the City engaged The Democracy Collaborative, a group with extensive expertise from similar work in Cleveland Ohio in connection with the Evergreen Cooperatives and the Greater University Circle Initiative. The Democracy Collaborative completed a study in February 2016 that documented incredible potential for the project, a high degree of community support including local Anchor Institution buy-in, as well as several potential business niches for future worker-owned businesses. The report also includes an implementation plan to move the project forward in two additional phases, the first of which was approved to proceed by the Rochester City Council on March 22nd, 2016.

We Own It: A Guide to Worker Co-ops in NYC

Ingrid Haftel and Sandy Xu
The Center for Urban Pedagogy

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) teamed up with Sunset Park-based Center for Family Life, designer Amanda Buck, and illustrator Melissa Crowton to create We Own It, a fold-out poster that breaks down how worker co-ops work. Visuals and text in Spanish and English compare worker co-ops to typical businesses, explain the steps that go into starting or joining one, and show what a day on the job looks like for a worker-owner. 

The Cooperative Growth Ecosystem

Melissa Hoover and Hilary Abell
The Democracy At Work Institute, Project Equity

This second paper in Citi Community Development’s Building the Inclusive Economy series focuses on scaling worker cooperatives as a means to create quality jobs and wealth-building opportunities for low-income workers. Authored by Hillary Abell, Co-founder of Project Equity, and Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, the report draws from the experiences of Cincinnati, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area, and western North Carolina to develop a framework for understanding the successful components of a “cooperative growth ecosystem.” These include collaboration across sectors, diverse funding streams, and a “guiding coalition” to create a strategic vision:

Broad-Based Ownership Models as Tools for Job Creation and Community Development

Marjorie Kelly, Steve Dubb and Violeta Duncan

As cities wrestle with the growing challenge of wealth inequality, more and more leaders are looking to broad-based ownership models as tools to create jobs and build community wealth. These models are highly effective, with a positive impact for low- and moderate-income individuals and communities. This report looks at six such models—ESOPs, Worker Cooperatives, CDFIs, Social Enterprises, Municipal Ownership, and Emerging Hybrids—with examples of best practices, and explores how these models can be used in community economic development.

Ours to Share: How Worker-Ownership Can Change the American Economy

Sanjay Pinto and The Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation

This report from The Surdna Foundation delves into the world of worker ownership, detailing models and best practices, from the Cleveland Model developed by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Ohio to the role of foundations and philanthropy in developing worker-owned business strategies:

Reducing Economic Inequality through Democratic Worker-Ownership

Shannon Rieger

Amongst developed nations, the U.S. is a leader in unequal income distribution. But according to a recent Century Foundation report on the role of worker-ownership models, this is a trend that can be changed. The author examines how a cohesive national regulatory framework, national tax incentives, a U.S. employee ownership bank, and increased support for employee-ownership technical assistance centers can bolster U.S. worker-buyout policy. In aligning regulatory, technical, and financial support for worker-cooperatives, the United States can bring scale to this key economic equalizer. 

Beyond Business as Usual: Putting Cooperation to Work in Austin, TX

This report from Cooperation Texas examines the nature and benefits of the cooperative model and identifies barriers and opportunities for worker co-op development. There is a growing economic divide in Austin and worker cooperatives can play a role in addressing these conditions as part of a more equitable approach to community economic development.

Successful Cooperative Ownership Transitions: Case Studies on the Conversion of Privately Held Businesses to Worker Cooperatives

With 70 percent of privately held businesses expected to change hands over the next two decades and 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day (many of whom lack succession plans), the nation has the opportunity to preserve these businesses by converting them to worker cooperatives. This new report from the Democracy at Work Institute and the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives provides case studies of successful cooperative ownership transitions for cafés in Washington and Oregon; an architecture, building, and energy business in Massachusetts; a natural conservation consultancy firm in Wisconsin; and a landscaping business in Massachusetts. The authors examine how owner involvement, financing, governance structure, and other critical factors affect the conversion process and highlight the need for greater technical assistance and peer support from the cooperative community. 

Energy Democracy: Namasté Solar, a profile in cooperative ownership

Jarrid Green
Center for Social Inclusion

Our Research Associate Jarrid Green authored this report, highlighting the successes of Namasté Solar in democratizing energy in Colorado:

Case Studies: Business Conversions to Worker Cooperatives—Insights and Readiness Factors for Owners and Employees

Alison Lingane and Shannon Rieger

These 12 case studies explore the practical promises and pitfalls of converting existing businesses to worker cooperative ownership—a key strategy for building more democratic workplaces. 

Impact to Last: Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Enterprise

Ben Thornley, Jacquelyn Anderson and Lauren Dixon

In these eight case studies, REDF (a California-based nonprofit, has led the pioneering effort to create jobs and employment opportunities for people facing the greatest barriers to work) highlights the work of social enterprise leaders around the country. By surveying groups such as the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio, REDF showcases the principal drivers of achieving scale and success, and paving the way towards a more inclusive economy.

Community Investment in the Local Food System

Jonathon Ward, Margaret Christie, Addie Rose Holland, Dan Rosenberg, Jeff Rosen and Sam Stegman

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) published a new case study on Real Pickles, an organic food business that raised half a million dollars through a community investment campaign to transition to worker ownership.

Understanding Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Nina K. Dastur

Published by the Center for Community Change, this guide for community organizers provides a broad view of the benefits of worker-owned cooperatives and shows how they align with the goals of grassroots organizing groups. Author Nina Daskur demonstrates how cooperatives uphold the principles of solidarity and democracy that are the foundation of community organizing, and are especially relevant in the current economic and political climate. Intended to lay out both the advantages and challenges of a co-operative business model, the paper profiles worker-owned cooperatives in four different service occupations that are typically characterized by low wages –home health care, child care, food service, and housecleaning –and identifies useable mechanisms that organizers could undertake to help advance alternative ownership in communities.

Understanding Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Nina K. Dastur

Published by the Center for Community Change, this guide for community organizers provides a broad view of the benefits of worker-owned cooperatives and shows how they align with the goals of grassroots organizing groups. Author Nina Daskur demonstrates how cooperatives uphold the principles of solidarity and democracy that are the foundation of community organizing, and are especially relevant in the current economic and political climate. Intended to lay out both the advantages and challenges of a co-operative business model, the paper profiles worker-owned cooperatives in four different service occupations that are typically characterized by low wages –home health care, child care, food service, and housecleaning –and identifies useable mechanisms that organizers could undertake to help advance alternative ownership in communities.

Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work

This new documentary highlights the work of the Mondragon Cooperatives as well as companies across the United States, such as the Evergreen Cooperatives, which are owned and governed democratically by their employees. Airing on PBS stations across the country in the summer of 2014, the film includes interviews with the Democracy Collaborative's Ted Howard. Find out about the Washington, D.C. premiere here.

Story of Stuff podcast: Workers as Owners

In this podcast, The Story of Stuff Project features Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives. Sustainability activist Annie Leonard highlights cooperatives as an alternative to the “take waste system,” providing a formula for a healthy economy and an environment that empowers individuals. Talking with Evergreen Cooperative’s Medrick Addison of Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, Michael Mckenzie of Evergreen Energy Solutions, and Mary Donnell of Green City Growers, Leonard shows how the cooperatives are transforming an economically distressed neighborhood and changing lives at the same time. 

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