In a northeast corner of Los Angeles, not far from where I live, there’s a neighborhood called Atwater Village, and in that neighborhood an enterprise called the Proof Bakery does a thriving business selling a wide range of pastries, cakes, sandwiches, coffees, and other popular items. Three years ago, its founder and owner, Na Young Ma, decided to relinquish ownership after running the business for almost 10 years. But instead of selling the bakery to an outside owner, with all the possible consequences that could accrue from such a sale (including the firing of employees), she took the more challenging, time-consuming path of initiating a Transition to a worker-owned cooperative, inspired by the long-running, successful Cheese Board Collective and Arizmendi Bakeries in California’s Bay Area (Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Rafael, Emeryville)
Ms. Ma sought out advice from a non-profit consulting group called Project Equity, and after two years, she sold the bakery to her employees in August, 2021. Eleven of the employees stepped up to become worker-owners, with another 13 remaining as employees. An employee can become a worker-owner after working for the bakery for a year and investing $2500 in the business, either up front or through paycheck deductions. Since the bakery opened as a cooperative a little over a year ago, it now has 13 worker-owners and 12 employees.