The workplace is not where many people feel most powerful. Sure, if you’re the big boss of your restaurant, or candle store, or car dealership, or financial planning firm, or zoo, you might walk into work with a little swagger in your step, knowing you control the box of free donuts in the break room (Take One!) and whatever the “Q2 strategy” is. But most people aren’t the big boss, which means most people don’t get the kind of agency and decision-making power that makes work feel like an investment in and of itself. Instead, at the end of the day, it’s all just for a check (and health insurance, if you’re lucky).
Bleak, huh? Well, according to the fiercest advocates of worker cooperatives, it doesn’t have to be like this. A worker co-op is a business that is “100 percent owned by the people who work there,” said Mo Manklang, policy director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC). Manklang said that ownership confers every “worker owner” (the job title, versus “employee”) with an equal amount of stake in the company, plus the power to steer the direction of their workplace by participating in democratic decision-making processes.