We actually had a thread dedicated to Worker co-ops in one of the other forums of this site. It turned out for me to be a repository of news articles on the subject. Such a repository is needed for reasons similar to that of a thread on news and discussion of global climate change. To counter the many myths and ignorance surrounding the subject. Somehow the other thread is gone. In some ways a good thing in that it more properly probably should have been placed in the News and Current events. So I am starting this thread to rebuild a data base on this topic.
I should say that I learned a lot in posting article in the other thread. Mostly, I was surprised at how extensive the existence of worker co-ops really is in this society. To address an argument brought forth in a thread in the history forum, it showed me how reformist methods can gradually over time bring about tremendously dramatic changes in things as fundamental as who owns and controls the means of production. Worker owned co-ops can introduce a form of UBI for people and their children that needs no further legislation by politicians. It is an answer that often times both hard core socialists and capitalists can embrace. It can also encourage mechanization and organization to increase productivity that workers can feel comfortable about because they still can retain a stake in the enterprise in question.
So, without further introduction, let me start with a few articles from Nonprofit Quarterly.
Worker Co-ops Develop New Paths to Raise Outside Capital
(Nonprofit Quarterly) Founded in the 1980s, Equal Exchange “currently earns around $70 million a year in revenues, and has around 150 employees,” reports Oscar Perry Abello in Next City. It is also a worker cooperative.
“Being a worker cooperative,” notes Abello, “means every worker has an equal say and an equal ownership share in the company. It doesn’t mean every worker has to vote on every day-to-day decision within the business. But on major decisions, this structure helps to guard against making drastic changes such as sacrificing wages and benefits for the sake of profits or shutting down their existing roasting facility and moving it hundreds or thousands of miles away.”
A key challenge that worker co-ops can face is raising the capital they need. It’s not hard to understand the problem. A worker cooperative’s owners are the workers themselves, who each have an equal share in the company. And since they have 100 percent voting control of the company, you can’t sell voting shares to people who are not worker-owners in the cooperative.
Let’s say the share price is high—even $10,000 a worker. With 150 workers, that would get you to $1.5 million in worker equity. That sounds good, but hardly likely to be sufficient for a company with $70 million in sales. And because we are talking about a coffee roasting company…well, you’re not going to raise even $1.5 million in worker-owner equity, either. (In reality, the amount of worker equity at Equal Exchange in 2016was a tad below $377,000.)