Worker Cooperatives


A worker cooperative is a democratically managed business owned and controlled by the workers. The cooperative form of organization allows ordinary people to combine their energy, capital, and skills to gain steady employment and income, participate in ownership and management, and share their investment and labor profits.

Historically, worker cooperatives date back to 1790 in the US and the 1760s in England. They are found all over the world.

As cooperative members, workers participate in decisions that affect how their work is organized, performed, and managed. But also as those that determine the growth and success of the business. Typically, workers receive wages established by the cooperative and then share in the year-end profits (or losses) according to their participation in the company (for example, hours worked or wages earned).

Worker cooperatives characteristically expect members to:

  • Work together (as opposed to being independent contractors) in a commonly owned business;
  • Govern and control the enterprise based on one vote per member, by consensus decision making, or an alternative democratic structure;
  • Take the full risks and benefits of working in, owning, and operating their cooperative business;
  • Equitably contribute to and benefit from the capital of their cooperative;
  • Decide how the net income, or net losses, will be allocated.
  • A worker collective is a form of worker cooperation that prioritizes the group and similarities among members. The collective utilizes consensus decision-making processes, although some collectives allow two-thirds or another super-majority votes under certain conditions. The similarity of members in pay and authority are additional characteristics of the worker collective.