Worker-Owned Cooperatives are a cure for the vast negative effects laid upon us by hierarchical workplaces.
The US Federation of Worker Co-Ops writes about the benefits of these business structures, which range from societal to individual:
“The member benefits are multiple. A cooperative can be a way for people to start and own a small business together when they may lack the means or expertise to do so alone. Worker cooperative members can build assets in their cooperative business by retaining surplus every year in individual capital accounts. In a worker cooperative, workers own their jobs, so they decide how they are treated and how they want to operate the business. Worker-owners also get a lot of practice making decisions, building their skills in a variety of areas, and participating democratically in a process to benefit the larger group. These are the skills and habits of engaged community members, and they don’t stop at the workplace: you will often find worker-owners involved in the community in other ways.
Community benefits are clear too. Successful worker cooperatives tend to create long-term stable jobs, enact sustainable business practices, and develop linkages among different parts of the social economy. Worker-owned businesses have not only a direct stake in the local environment but the power to decide to do business in a way that is sustainable for us all. The worker cooperative movement is increasingly recognized as part of the larger movement for sustainability and a new economy based on people’s needs.
Cooperatives have a long history as a way for working people to create good, dignified jobs that they control, particularly for people who lack access to business ownership or even stable work options. Organizations undertaking economic development to build wealth in poor communities and communities of color have used worker cooperatives as a powerful vehicle for addressing economic inequality. Worker cooperatives have been shown to provide better working conditions and wages for typically low-wage work, and to increase household wealth for low-income workers. Worker cooperatives can also play an important role in building movements for economic justice and social change. As institutions where real democracy is practiced on a day to day basis, they are a model for the empowerment we will need to create the change we envision. As economic engines, they meet material needs, anchoring capital and jobs in communities.”
Another key difference to note about Co-Ops is that the wage gap between the administrative employees and the labor workers is very small. In fact, many Co-Ops have written into their by-laws that no employee may earn 10x more than any other employee. (Employee and Owner being one in the same in a Cooperative).