For financial institutions looking to create deep and lasting impact, worker cooperatives are a powerful tool for economic and community development. They reduce inequality by allowing a greater segment of the population to build assets through business ownership. They combat poverty by providing access to employment for marginalized populations. And they strengthen local economies by rooting businesses in their communities.
The idea of selling a business to its employees and converting it to a worker owned cooperative is gaining traction as a viable succession strategy. It is a strategy that saves jobs, builds community wealth, and empowers workers to own and manage their own business. Worker cooperatives differ from other business entity types in that they are owned and democratically controlled by their workers, and workers share in the risk and reward of operating the business.
This research paper summarizes an examination of the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) dataset for North Carolina and Iowa to gauge the potential for conversions of existing businesses to worker cooperatives. The data demonstrate that the potential is quite large, and that even if only a fraction of these successfully converted to worker ownership and continued to operate at their last year levels, there would be meaningful economic impacts.
The Democracy at Work Institute/USFWC Press Kit includes information about worker cooperatives, why they are important, examples of existing cooperatives and development organizations, city government initiatives, frequently asked questions, and more.
Becoming Employee-Owned is a guide for business owners interested in employee ownership. It provides an overview of the three primary transition approaches for employee ownership: worker cooperatives, ESOPs, and management buy-outs. Regardless of what stage the business is in--from expansion to succession planning-- this resource can help business owners understand their options for becoming an employee-owned company.
When forming, worker cooperatives have an important choice to make regarding their legal entity. Each entity type has implications on important issues including taxation, employment law, and access to capital. This resource is intended to give a brief overview of the entity types and lay out the issues worker cooperatives may want to consider when choosing which is the best fit for the business at whatever stage it is currently in.
Before a cooperative transition process can get started, the selling owner needs to make some decisions about how to structure the process, specifically she needs to clearly define who has decision-making power in the process: herself, the transition committee, the likely coop members, and the whole group. This chart outlines who decides what.
Gant chart outlining the phases a business goes through during transition to a cooperative.
A presentation on how employees can buy-out a company and convert to a worker cooperative.