Worker Co-ops All-in

When the Co-op is Your livelihood

In late June 2012 I attended the US Workers Federation national conference in Boston. When I attended this meeting it meant I had now been to the major national meeting of every cooperative sector. I was sorry it had taken me so long to attend this eye-opening event of how worker co-ops operate.

Worker cooperatives are “all in,” in a manner that is unique among cooperatives. While cooperative is the business model, it is as much about workplace democracy as anything else. Most of us have never worked in an environment where we and all of our fellow workers had equal say in how the business operates and is managed. My affiliation with the CDS Consulting Co-op a shared services co-op has given me some insight into the process.

It takes a real effort and a desire to truly participate in the operations and management of the business and while it is difficult to achieve I can see how it can be very rewarding.

As happens at conferences I sat next to some folks that I had never met before they were the worker owners of Pedal People This is a worker cooperative that collects trash, recycling and compost via bicycle. It operates in Northampton area of Massachusetts. The young owners that I spoke with had college degrees which might seem strange for people who are picking up trash. As I learned at an early age from my parents and grandparents there is dignity in honest work and that dignity is multiplied greatly when you own the business no matter what the product or service.

As a generation of baby boomer business owners that are part of purchasing cooperatives prepare to retire I see great opportunity to significantly expand worker cooperatives in the US. I look forward to continuing my education about worker cooperatives and the real opportunity that they present for us to truly create a cooperative economy…




Posted on July 27, 2012 in Articles

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About the Author

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative.
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