How We Own Our Workplaces


We envision a world where there is no difference between “worker” and “owner”.

Worker-owned cooperatives – businesses that are owned and operated by their workers — are a critical strategy in building community control and community wealth. They challenge our current winner-take-all economy where the top 0.2% take home most of the gains. Instead of siphoning profits into the hands of executives and investors,  worker cooperatives create quality jobs, are democratically run, and build wealth among those who build a business’ value – the workers. Across the world – from Italy to Argentina – worker cooperatives prove to be scalable and competitive in the marketplace. They are more productive than conventional companies, more resilient in times of crisis, and are a key factor in generating economic opportunity and growing communities centered in equity and democracy.

Federal, state, and local governments must embrace the following public policies and financing mechanisms that recognize the vital role of worker cooperatives in sustainable economic development.

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Develop education and technical assistance programs for worker cooperatives
  • Require that local governments play a frontline role in educating workers about worker-ownership.
  • Require that state economic development departments or other public agencies create easy-to-use guides for worker coop formation and other resources for local economic developers to disseminate.
  • Require the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce allocate $17M to develop educational materials on worker ownership that is easily accessible online and in-print, and be translated in a wide number of languages.
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Produce data and research about worker cooperatives
  • Establish a Federal Office of Broad-based Worker Ownership in the National Economic Council
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Financially support worker cooperatives
  • Invest in local financial support for worker coops, including revolving loan funds, loan guarantees, and grant programs for both worker cooperative businesses and the technical assistance providers to serve them. 
  • Develop state-level financial support to amplify the effects of local support.
  • Allocate a percentage of funding from the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program for worker-cooperative development. 
  • Give workers a right of first refusal to buy businesses that are put up for sale or threatened with closure
  • Provide student loan forgiveness for individuals employed at a worker cooperative.
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Create public procurement incentives for worker cooperatives
  • Require cities to create a preferential procurement certification for worker cooperatives which lasts for five years
  • Require cities to create bid discounts for worker cooperatives, allowing their original bid amount to be discounted by a certain percentage for the purpose of evaluating and determining the lowest responsible bid.
  • Include preference points or weight percentages for worker cooperatives in the scoring matrix used to evaluate proposals in response to RFPs.  
  • Reward prime contractors that utilize worker cooperatives as subcontractors and vendors for a percentage of the awarded contract.
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Develop corporate structures and incentives that encourage growth
  • Create a state worker cooperative statute
  • Create tax incentives for worker coops
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Case Studies

Illinois Limited Worker Cooperative Association Act

Scale of policy change (local, state, national): State

WHO – Illinois Coalition for Cooperative Advancement, a coalition of worker cooperatives, incubators/developers, economic justice organizations and other stakeholders in the cooperative ecosystem 

WHAT – State law passed to include worker cooperatives as a business entity recognized under law 

WHERE – Chicago, IL 

WHEN – Coalition came together in January 2019. LWCAA signed into law on August 9, 2019.  

WHY – To provide explicit recognition to worker cooperatives in Illinois. To provide more opportunity and structure for worker-owners to maintain control over their businesses, specifically for startup cooperative businesses in working class Black & Brown communities in Chicago.

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