Santa Barbara Independent – Worker-Owned Cooperatives Can Succeed

From the Santa Barbara Independent:

The phenomenon of worker-owned cooperatives is a simple concept. Workers weigh in on the conditions that affect them most: They vote to elect their board of directors and/or managers and/or to set wages and rules around profit redistribution. They can design the business so they have no managers or serve as the board themselves. Worker coops can use any number of decision-making processes ranging from simple majority to total consensus. The governance structure typically depends on the size of the business, but all of this is evidenced to be manageable and scalable.

The largest worker-owned coop in the United States is Community Home Care Associates, which employs over 2,200 worker-owners in the Bronx. The majority of workers are Latina or African American women, and the annual employee turnover rate is 15%, three or four times less when compared with the industry norm of 40 to 60%. Also based out of New York is a project called the Mirror Trans Beauty Co-op, a trans Latina-run cosmetology cooperatively-owned business now in its initial startup fundraising stages.

Other worker coops include Alvarado Street Bakery, which opened in 1981 and employs roughly 100 worker-owners in Sonoma County. Weaver Street Market is a multi-stakeholder grocery store coop with three locations in North Carolina and nearly 200 worker-owners. Austin, Texas, has a pub and brewery blending consumer and worker coop with roughly 3,000 consumer members and 30 worker-owners. In Isla Vista, we have a Food Cooperative, which is owned by its consumer-members, but this is different than a worker-owned cooperative.

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