Yet across the country, many of the nation’s most disenfranchised are writing a different story. In dozens of cities, worker-owner cooperatives are establishing new enterprises based on joint decision-making, dignified work conditions and fair pay. Utilizing their existing skills and harnessing new ones, these groups are leveraging their labor on their own terms, with a vision to change their industries and the economic landscape. And in this rising movement, people of color, immigrants and women are leading the way.
There are many reasons why cooperatives are well-suited to these demographics, says Esteban Kelly, executive director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, or USFWC, a nationwide coalition representing over 160 co-ops. “Cooperatives are very appealing for people who have been locked out of the traditional job market, or who tend to get locked in to jobs which have low wages and poor working conditions,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of momentum in the service sectors, like child care and elderly care, early education, hospice, and other labor-intensive, low-wage jobs — and these tend to be comprised of many people of color, indigenous people, immigrants and women.”
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