Worker Cooperatives 101

Did you know it’s possible to have a more democratic workplace? Cooperatives have existed in the United States since the 1800’s and are gaining momentum as workers are seeking an egalitarian workplace. Here is an overview of what they are and the types that exist. 

What are Co-ops?

A cooperative (co-op) is an enterprise owned and controlled by the people who produce (workers) or use the product or services (consumers) — its members. Members are the foundation upon which a co-op is built. Co-ops are different from other forms of businesses because they operate to meet the needs of its members, rather than focusing on profit for investors or management. There are various kinds of co-ops that exist: 

Types of Co-ops:

  1. Worker co-ops are owned by the members — people who work there and return the means of production to the workers. What makes a worker cooperative unique is that all decisions are made democratically and its structure remains horizontal. Common examples include bakeries, retail stores, software development groups and architectural groups. A specific example would be Arizmendi Bakery in CA. 
  2. Consumer co-ops are owned by the members — the consumers who gain goods or services. While consumers have the opportunity to supply their own needs, share earnings, and have access to bargaining power, the employees are not usually members of the cooperative. They tend to be organized in small communities. Common examples include food, retail, hardware, etc. A specific example would be REI
  3. Producer co-ops are owned by the members — the producers of products. Members use the cooperative and work with other producers who create similar types of goods or services to increase their marketing capabilities and to streamline the production process. As a result, they can lower their bottom line and share mutual benefits, but employees are not members of the cooperative. Common examples include agricultural products, arts, and forestry. A specific example would be Sunkist

How WORCS Can Help:

At WORCS, we believe in building and promoting worker co-ops since they’re inherently non-exploitative and put the workers and their needs at the forefront of the business. We can connect you within our network of cooperatives, provide educational tools, and assist you with securing capital or loans. You can contact us by email at or by phone at (714) 643 6117. To learn more, click here for resources we recommend checking out!

Works Cited:

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