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 Democracy at Work Institute publishing program was created to develop practical resources, conduct research, and promote the thinking of cooperative developers and worker-owners. We will develop tools and resources to promote best practices for worker cooperatives, developers, and those interested in worker cooperatives as a tool for economic and community development. Our foundational research program will cover everything from a census of the number and type of worker cooperatives and cooperative development efforts, to research on access to capital for worker cooperatives. We will investigate barriers to cooperative development, and economic impacts of shared ownership. Our publications will also be a forum for cooperative developers and members to share their wisdom - and their opinions - about worker cooperative development and functioning. Topics are as broad as proposals for new anchor institution strategies and as specific as a thought piece on founders' credits and incentives for growth.
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 resource is intended to give small business support organizations a background on how the worker cooperative model can help entrepreneurs reach their dreams.
Worker cooperatives have increasingly drawn attention from the media, policy makers and academics in recent years. Individual cooperatives across the country have been highlighted, and substantive studies have been conducted of the worker cooperative experience in other countries, including Spain, Italy, France, Canada and Argentina. But what do we know about worker cooperatives in the US as a whole?
After working with professionals to determine which entity type is right for your worker cooperative, the next step is to work with professionals to develop your governing documents. Bylaws and operating agreements should include high-level information about the governance of the organization. They clarify and codify the democratic governance and ownership of your cooperative, help provide a structure through which the cooperative can grow, and provide a last resort for conflict resolution if relationships break down.
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.
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.
Worker cooperatives are a powerful tool for economic and community development. This resource describes their role in creating a more just economy. It provides an overview of the benefits of the cooperative form, with examples of existing cooperatives and quotes from worker-owners. The resource also describes current initiatives to develop cooperatives by nonprofits, as well as government initiatives to spur the growth of the sector.
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.
This is an overview of the University of Winnipeg's anchor-led model for community economic development. It positions the Winnipeg model as a robust example of an anchor institution strategy, and includes a broad survey of US worker cooperative development and movement-building efforts of the last 30 years.