“I am drawn to the concept of coops in part because I think with some federal policy work and more Labor comfort with this model through scaled positive experiences, a union coop could be the ideal employer structure to build both Union and Cooperative membership. A union gives our members a voice and decision-making power, a worker coop gives them ownership of the business, and together a union co-op promises a path to a more asset-rich and benefit-rich future for workers where everyone rises together. In theory, this powerful combination could be a new frontier in the evolution of workers’ empowerment throughout the United States. The problem is that business conversion tax regulations today mainly serve the interests of selling owners and consequently worker coops lose out to ESOPs and anti-unionists with workers getting the shortest end of the remaining benefits and workplace equity stick. This is largely due to the patchwork of state-specific laws around worker owned entities, a parallel silence on tax policy inadequacy and injustice at the federal level around worker co-op corporate entities starting with a lack of tax parity treatment, the centrality of the seller without equal worker voice in potential co-op conversions of existing businesses, some conversion intermediaries who do not operate in good faith because their fees come from the exiting owner-seller, and a lack of built-in support in workforce development, small business, and other state-issued funding streams for true worker co-ops and especially unionized ones. This means that ‘Building Back Better and Fairer’ must start with tax parity for all ownership structures and with allowing all aspirational worker-owners who shoulder the heavy lifting required of any converted enterprise to succeed and sustain in a truly “free” market environment the right to choose freely regarding the workplace structure and culture best suited for them. This is even more true for conversions where the union predates the coop.”
Gary J. Bonadonna Jr.
Manager & International Vice-President
Rochester Regional Joint Board