Worker Cooperatives

Businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their workers/employees (called "worker-owners").

[Editor's note: this talk was delivered in Cuba, during a trip organized by the Center for Global Justice in June, 2016.]

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[Editor's note: below are two videos that, while separated by over 50 years in time, share a common theme.  First, Ed Whitfield of the Fund for Democratic Communities and Renaissance Community Co-op, dicusses cooperative economics in the context of reparations for historical and on-going racial injustice.  Then, in priceless archival footage, Father Albert McKnight from Lafayette, LA discusses the founding and operation of the Southern Consumers' Co-op, their impre

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Abstract

This paper provides an explanation of why worker cooperative startups are rare. If true worker ownership is to be maintained in the startup period where losses occur, members face either a 'pay to work' or 'expected investment loss' problem. Founding members must either pay money to cover the losses resulting from their labor, or make investments upfront which will be expected to decline in value as losses occur. These two issues are completely foreign to modern finance and current labor practice, and also ignored by the worker coop community.

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Cities are investing in support systems for worker cooperative development as a tool for sustainable and equitable economic development.
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Originally published in GEO vol. 1, issue 61, 2004

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The cooperative business and community model is both older than you think, and probably not what you think. Cooperatives have a history, especially in Buffalo, NY, and in minority communities everywhere. Clinton Parker explains how co-ops really work, how they can help some modern problems, and how you can get involved.

 

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[Editor's note: the following short article was first published in 2001, in GEO Newsletter #44: Democracy within Co-opsCollective Copies now has 33 years in operation and is still going strong.]

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[Editor's note: The two videos below come from the 2008 documentary Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas.  The full documentary is available on Youtube  in Spanish, as well as in Portuguese.

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1) Background
    i) Cuba has been engaged in a deep restructuring of its project to build socialism for a quarter of a century. 

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This paper conceptualizes socialist construction as a process of incremental reclaiming from capital of those resources that can best be held in common so that members of a community can achieve their fuller human development*.  Under democratic rules the community regulates the commons so as to ensure its accessibility and sustainability.  The formation of cooperatives is an instance of the socialization of the workplace.  By bringing workers together into self governing collectivities, cooperatives also contribute to the socialization of workers to a socialist moral order.  In Cuba a

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James Razsa talks with Josh Davis about the effort to establish Democracy Brewing in Boston, MA: a worker co-op brew pub, event center and organizing space. James also shares his thoughts on the relations between unions and co-ops, informed by his time working in both movements.

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As the online "sharing economy" devolves into poor labor conditions and monopolistic practices, the concept of "platform cooperativism" offers a hopeful vision for a more democratic online economy. This new wave of entrepreneurs, investors, and business developers are merging offline cooperative economics with the Internet in creative ways. We'll discuss how far this emergent movement has come, and explore some of the challenges it faces in the struggle for the future of the online platforms we increasingly depend on.

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One simple strategy for supporting the growth of co-ops in the U.S. and Canada is for cooperatives, collectives and their members to use their purchasing power to support the cooperative movement.
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