Worker Cooperatives

Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative

The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI) emerged in the wake of a historic agreement signed in October, 2009 between Mondragon and the United Steelworkers, North America’s largest industrial union, to launch union-cooperatives in the United States.

Are Worker Co-ops the Silver Bullet?

Michelle Strutzenberger

The documentary Shift Change, produced by Melissa Young with Mark Dworkin and Moving Images, highlights the Mondragón cooperatives in Spain’s Basque Country, as well as a number of U.S. cooperatives. A recent review points out how the film also shows that operating a successful worker-owned co-op is not always simple. Shift Change, this review notes, presents worker-owned co-op as an attractive, alternative business model — especially in countries hit hard by the global economic crisis— while honestly portraying the challenges of sustaining a successful enterprise.

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.

Immigrant Worker Owned Cooperatives: A User's Manual

Minsun Ji and Tony Robinson

This manual by Minsun Ji of El Centro Humanitario and Tony Robinson of the University of Colorado, Denver,  intended for workers (especially immigrant workers) and their advocates, provides detailed information about how to create, finance, manage, and grow worker cooperatives.

Mandela Foods Cooperative

Established in 2009, Mandela Foods Cooperative is a worker-owned, full-service, 2,300 square foot grocery store located in West Oakland, California that helps fill the need for healthy food options in a community that has been historically underserved in grocery retail. It offers an example of using a cooperative to fill needs in a food desert. Mandela has a series of community service goals. It seeks to expand and promote local buying power and employment opportunity through its efforts to increase purchasing from small farms within a 170 mile radius of Oakland. Read more about Mandela Foods Cooperative...

Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution

Marjorie Kelly

As long as businesses are set up to focus exclusively on maximizing financial income for the few, our economy will be locked into endless growth and widening inequality. But now people across the world are experimenting with new forms of ownership, which Kelly calls generative: aimed at creating the conditions for all of life to thrive for many generations to come. These designs may hold the key to the deep transformation our civilization needs.

To understand these emerging alternatives, Kelly reports from across the globe, visiting a community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts, a lobster cooperative in Maine, a multibillion-dollar employee-owned department-store chain in London, a foundation-owned pharmaceutical in Denmark, a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin, and other places where a hopeful new economy is being built. Along the way, she finds the five essential patterns of ownership design that make these models work.

Evergreen Cooperatives

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the Evergreen Cooperatives are pioneering models of job creation, wealth building, and sustainability. Their companies are employee-owned and for profit and are proud to say they are based locally and hire locally. The create green jobs that are meaningful to the Cleveland community and keep important financial resources within the Greater University Circle Neighborhoods. Worker-owners at Evergreen earn a living wage and are able to build equity in the firms as owners of the business. 

  Read more about Evergreen Cooperatives...

Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse

Opened in 2004, Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse is a worker-owned and collectively managed vegetarian/vegan restaurant, coffee roaster, bookstore, and community events space.  The co-op has a two-fold mission:  1) to demonstrate that it is possible to build institutions that embrace sustainability and democracy, and in doing so, 2) build a resource for social justice movements in Baltimore.  Red Emma’s currently has ­­18 worker-owners, making it the largest worker-owned enterprise in the city.

Rainbow Groceries

With 220 worker-owners, Rainbow Grocery has been providing the Bay Area with affordable vegetarian products that have minimal impact on the environment since 1975. The worker-owned cooperative supports local organic farmers, bakers, and dairies by purchasing their products and selling them for reasonable prices. The cooperative is also a certified green business that aims to exceed the stringent standards set by the San Francisco Department of the Environment and adopt ways to minimize its environmental impact.  Committed to cooperative development, Rainbow Grocery launched a Cooperative Grant Program in 2013 to support the growth of existing or start-up worker-owned cooperatives and collectives in the Bay Area.

Electric Embers

Electric Embers is a worker-owned cooperative that provides Internet services and technical assistance to over 800 local non-profits, other cooperatives, artists, and community wealth building organizations.  The company is 100 percent powered by renewable energy, and the carbon offsets it purchases help build wind, biogas, and solar projects that benefit Native Americans, family farmers, and rural communities. Read more about Electric Embers...

Arizmendi Bakery

The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives is a cooperative made up of seven member businesses: six cooperative bakeries and a development and support collective that provides accounting, legal, educational and other support services. Two of the bakeries are in San Francisco:  Arizmendi Bakery San Francisco, which opened in 2000, and Arizmendi Valencia, which opened in 2010.  The bakeries are named after Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, the young priest that helped found the Mondragon Cooperatives. Read more about Arizmendi Bakery...

Isthmus Engineering

Owned as a worker cooperative by its 29 employees, Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing provides advanced solutions in industrial automation, with the cooperative structure providing an oasis of stability and steady growth since 1980, an exception in a manufacturing sector all too prone to disruption and job loss. Read more about Isthmus Engineering...

Prospera (formerly WAGES)


Founded in 1995, Prospera (which was formerly known as WAGES) is a nonprofit organization that raises start-up capital and provides technical assistance to promote the economic and social well being of low-income women through cooperative business ownership. Read more about Prospera (formerly WAGES)...

Team Works

Founded in 2004, TeamWorks is a worker-owned cooperative business. Every permanent worker in the company is an owner-member with a financial stake in the business' success and its decision-making. TeamWorks consists of two business, one of which provides house cleaning and concierge services on the San Francisco peninsula while the other provides business support services and is involved in starting new TeamWorks sites. Read more about Team Works...

NYC NoWC: New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives

The New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives was established by a coalition of local worker-owners, developers, lawyers, and academics in 2009.  The organization attempts to be a comprehensive network for a variety of cooperative sectors throughout New York City. They strive to promote and develop the educational, financial, and methodological resources of its member cooperatives.  The network shares its knowledge and resources at its monthly meetings, held in both Spanish and English, and open to the public. Read more about NYC NoWC: New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives...

Equal Exchange

Founded in 1986 and owned and governed by 85 worker-owners, this for-profit Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate company is a worker-co-operative dedicated to partnering with farmer and consumer co-operatives as much as possible. It currently works with 40 small-scale farmer co-ops in 20 countries. A major portion of its $30 million in annual sales (2007) flow through hundreds of consumed-owned food co-operatives and non-profit Fair Trade shops nationwide. Read more about Equal Exchange...

Design Action Collective

The Design Action Collective is a spin-off of Berkeley-based Inkworks Press collective. Throughout the 1990s, Inkworks Press offered graphic design services to non-profit, grassroots and activist organizations under the same roof as its offset print shop. In 2003, Inkworks decided that both its print and design services would benefit from the creation of a new collective. Like Inkwood, Design Action Collective is an independent, collectively run, union shop.  As of 2014, Design Action had 11 worker-owners aiming to offer their design skills to the progressive movement.
Read more about Design Action Collective...

Cooperative Home Care Associates

Founded 25 years ago as an employee-owned home care agency in the South Bronx, Cooperative Home Care Associates is now the largest worker cooperative in the United States, employing roughly 2,000 African American and Latina workers in the poorest urban county in the United States. CHCA’s nonprofit training arm, Paraprofessional Health Institute, annually trains more than 450 inner-city women to become home health aides. Read more about Cooperative Home Care Associates...

Alvarado Street Bakery

Founded in 1981, this worker cooperative, with 67 employee-owners, produces natural wheat bread that is now sold at groceries across the United States. Read more about Alvarado Street Bakery...