The Nation – What if Workers Owned Their Workplaces?

From The Nation:

While many coops are start-ups, conversion of conventional businesses to cooperatives can be a vital investment in marginalized communities, and also widen accessibility to credit, since start-up capital can be pooled collectively. Of the 15 new cooperatives that launched in 2016, 11 were conversions. As struggling communities lose the mom-and-pop shops that have long been a bulwark of economic opportunity, Hoover says,“It’s really dangerous for our small-business ecosystem for [systematic sell-offs and closures, instead of conversion to coops] to happen.… What’s happening to those businesses as their owners are getting older is that they’re getting shut down or consolidated, it really changes that landscape.”

But conversions to more democratic ownership can preserve local assets, and in less-diverse economic landscapes, cooperatives can actively diversify historically white-male dominated sectors. “Who owns businesses in this country,” Hoover says, “are white men.… And who works in most businesses in this country are not white men.” When a retiring boss passes ownership onto workers, “you’re effectively making a racial wealth transfer from an aging white man to a much more diverse set of business owners.” Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives, a coalition of worker-owned firms, has tried to expand its sector by launching a new Fund for Employee Ownership to finance fresh conversions of old local businesses.

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