What is a union worker cooperative?

A union worker cooperative is an empowering way of organizing a business structured like the proverbial three-legged stool:

  1. Workers – Employees are the foundation on which any business achieves profitability, sustainability, success, or failure. The skills, abilities, attitudes and behaviors of employees are what a customer sees every time they use its product or utilize its service. A union worker cooperative puts employees at the forefront of its business strategy.
  2. Labor Unions – The history of the labor movement is a history of looking out for the interests and well-being of working Americans, organized and operating within a democratic framework. Labor unions have always operated on the belief that business exists for people, and not the reverse. In addition, Labor’s access to group health and pension plans, worker training programs and protections, and potential political access can provide important market advantages for a new business.
  3. Ownership – A cooperative is a business owned by its members; in the case of a unionized worker cooperative, by the workers employed by the business. In a worker cooperative, workers are guaranteed a voice in how the business is run; how the business is organized; who are the leaders in business; and are also guaranteed a number of seats on the company’s Board of Directors. In addition, the worker owners share in the financial success of the business, as well as responsibility for a failure to succeed. As the business grows, so does their financial stake in the business. And the union provides an important check and balance against human misbehavior.

So, to ask the question again, what is a unionized worker cooperative? A unionized worker cooperative is a business that, if successful, will on average have higher profitability metrics; higher productivity metrics; lower rates of employee turnover and other negative metrics. While a unionized worker cooperative provides no guarantee of profitability or longevity, it’s a business built on the simple idea that an ownership stake, and a voice, in the business in which one works is not only good for workers, but it’s simply a better way of doing business.

In our age of ever widening income gaps between rich and poor, isn’t this what we need?

– Chris Cooper, Ohio Employment Ownership Center and co-founder, 1worker1vote.org