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This guide was created by NCDF to assist potential co-op members and their partners in choosing, planning, organizing, and supporting new and existing employee-owned cooperatives.
Throughout the guide, we will use the terms “employee cooperative” and “worker cooperative” interchangeably.
In today’s dynamic marketplace, employee-owned cooperatives can provide a wide variety of workers with business-ownership opportunities offering a range of benefits that are hard to find in any other corporate structure: democratic governance, enhanced job security, and profit shar- ing based on labor input. Employee-owned businesses can also provide unique economic benefits to local communities by generating locally based economic activity and anchoring capital in a com- munity. Because worker co-ops are owned by employees rather than investors, they create a situa- tion where engaged, local ownership can flourish, rather than absentee ownership. Local ownership keeps more dollars revolving in the local economy, creates jobs, provides a wide range of goods and services, and offers a forum to strengthen civic society.
Worker cooperatives are easy to set up and run, allow for a great deal of flexibility, and are appli- cable in almost any business sector. Home health-care workers, teachers, computer programmers, machinists, bakers, ship builders, car-repair technicians, engineers, carpenters, cooks, taxi-cab driv- ers, and retail salespeople have all organized their businesses as employee-owned cooperatives. An existing business can be converted to an employee cooperative structure, or an interested group of individuals can start an entirely new business as a co-op. The options are limited only by the creativity and needs of community leaders, residents, and entrepreneurs.