There is something undeniable happening when it comes to coffee and labor in the United States. But one size does not fit all. In the same year as a burgeoning worker uprising movement, a handful of coffee businesses around the country were exploring an alternative approach: converting to a worker-owned model. There’s a subtle but significant difference between a company having a union, and a company being worker-owned; both unions and cooperatives are examples of collectivity, where you are stronger as a group than as an individual, but the practical reality of these modes of operation look totally distinct.
You can certainly open a business as a cooperative, like many do, but another option is to convert an existing one to a cooperative model. The process sounds a little daunting so I talked to three coffee cooperatives who recently and successfully converted. They gave me a behind-the-scenes look at their conversion processes and also shared some insightful tips for those who want to explore this.