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WHAT ARE WORKER COOPERATIVES?

Worker cooperatives are value-driven companies that put the benefit of workers and the community at the center of their purpose. They are owned and controlled by their workers, and are found in numerous industries. Cooperatives are often thought of as small, but they can be quite large. Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, New York, the nation's largest worker-owned cooperative, employs 2,300 (90% of them women of color) and generated 2013 revenue of $64 million.

The worker cooperative model has proven to be an effective tool for creating and maintaining decent and sustainable jobs; generating wealth; improving the quality of life of the workers; and promoting community and local economic development, particularly for people who lack access to business ownership or sustainable work options. By becoming part of the Prospera housecleaning cooperatives, for example, the median income for a worker-owner jumps from $24,000 to $40,989. They increase their income and acquire an asset that redirects the downward spiral of wealth in communities of color. When workers not only have a job but also an ownership stake, they enjoy greater control of their economic destiny.

Presentation by Vanessa Bransburg (DAWI) on the meaning of worker cooperatives:

More resources on worker cooperatives - from SELC USFWC (in Spanish):

WHY WORKER COOPERATIVES?

Our current economic system generates extreme wealth and social inequality, and contributes to our dire climate crisis. An alternative is urgently needed. Community wealth creation is a systems approach to economic development that creates an inclusive and sustainable economy based on locally rooted and widely held ownership.

Income and wealth in the US are divided along different color lines. White households in the middle-income quintile of the United States (those earning between $37,201 and $61,328 a year) own nearly eight times as much wealth ($86,100) as Black middle-income households ($11,000) and ten times as much wealth as Latine middle-income households ($8,600). The 2017 "Road to Zero Wealth" study by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies describes wealth as "the capital available for families to take advantage of economic opportunities, such as buying a home, saving for college, or investing in the stock market." Wealth, more than income, "can be the difference between a family maintaining and strengthening its economic status or teetering on economic insecurity." And the wealth of people of color is rapidly dwindling to nothing. Unless specific policy solutions and intentional investments in communities of color are implemented, the median wealth of Black households will hit zero by 2053, and the median of Latin@ households will do so twenty years later, or by 2073.

Community wealth creation is a framework for development that calls for many kinds of asset development based locally, working collaboratively, tapping into large sources of demand and fostering economic institutions and supportive ecosystems for community-rooted businesses. The goal is to create a new system that allows inclusive businesses and communities to thrive and helps families increase economic security. Examples of community wealth building strategies include cooperatives, employee-owned businesses, social enterprises, land trusts, family businesses, financial institutions and community development banks, and more.

Why worker cooperatives? Let Santa Ana worker-owners explain:

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