The BWA is interested in helping our members begin new Worker Owned Cooperatives as a better style of business that gives power to the workers and keeps wealth in our community. Below is a brief definition of a “Worker Coop” abridged from the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives website:

Worker cooperatives are business that are owned and controlled by their members, the people who work in them. The two central characteristics of worker coopratives are: (1) workers invest in and own the business and (2) decision-making is democratic, generally adhering to the principle of one worker-one vote.

Researchers and practitioners conservatively estimate that there are over 300 democratic workplaces in the United States, employing over 3,500 people and generating over $400 million in annual revenues.

The vast majority of worker cooperatives in the United States are small businesses, with a few notable larger enterprises. Many are concentrated in the retail and service sectors. There are also well-established worker cooperatives in manufacturing and the skilled trades. Traditionally there has been a strong cooperative presence in natural foods grocery stores and bakeries. In the past ten years, we have seen the growth of worker cooperatives in the technology sector and home health care.

In a worker cooperative, workers own their jobs, and thus have not only a direct stake in the local environment but the power to decide to do business in a way that is sustainable for us all. The worker cooperative movement is increasingly recognized as part of the larger movement for sustainability. Worker cooperatives tend to create long-term stable jobs, sustainable business practices, and linkages among different parts of the social economy.

In addition to providing meaningful jobs and asset-building opportunities for workers of all income levels, worker cooperatives can play an important role in building movements for economic justice and social change: as institutions where real democracy is practiced on a day to day basis, they are a model for the empowerment we will need to create the change we envision.