Worker Co-ops Overview

Industrial production, the creation of art, and the delivery of various services all have something in common: the people in these lines of work are using the cooperative business model to build successful businesses. Co-ops in industry, art, and service are commonly organized around the workers, where the people doing the work or delivering the service own the business. The business will look like any other except it will be the employees, workers, or producers that solely control and benefit from the business.

Ownership Matters

Cooperatives can be utilized in so many ways. Artists organize their worker co-ops to own a gallery to sell their art together in one place to better reach their local and regional markets and cut out middlemen and high consignment fees. Workers in various industrial areas organize their worker co-ops to better produce a good or offer a service and to have more equity and a stronger voice in the work they do than conventional business models. When a business is a worker co-op, the members govern the business democratically, through the one member, one vote principle. This empowers the group to work together in decision making that directly affects them. The workers are also the shareholders and equitably share the profits. In a world where more and more revenue is channeled from outside of the local communities that produce the goods and services being sold to outside investors, co-ops offer a sustainable alternative.

Industry Art Service 1

What Makes Worker Cooperatives Unique

Ownership, equity, and empowerment make cooperatives so unique. Artists own their art and their gallery; brewers own their beer and their brewhouse; manufacturing workers own their products and their company. The cooperative business model offers unrestricted entrepreneurial opportunity for workers to build equity and ownership in the economy and shape the future they want for their businesses.

“Worker cooperatives look like any other business except it will be the employees, workers, or producers that solely control and benefit from the business.”

Did You Know?

Today in the United States there are around 300 arts co-ops.

Worker co-ops operate in 17 different industries in the U.S.

Co-ops build jobs – worker co-ops provide stable employment, reducing turnover from 60% to 15%.

Total annual revenues generated by worker co-ops are around $400 million in the United States.

Helpful Links

United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives

National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA

International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Co-operatives (CICOPA)

International Co-operative Alliance