Coop Made in U.S.A.
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This new 64-page dossier by freelance author Enrico Massetti provides an interesting introduction to worker-owned and consumer co-ops in the United States. Drawing in his readers with a compilation of interesting back stories for multiple co-ops across the nation, Massetti also provides a useful toolkit – credit of and based on the Arizmendi Bakeries in San Francisco, CA – for those interested in starting a worker co-op or expanding their current one into a larger system of collectives.
Other interesting examples of worker-owned cooperatives include Brooklyn-based, cleaning service Si Se Puede!; Madison-based, automated machinery manufacturer Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing, Cleveland-based, solar panel installer Ohio Cooperative Solar, and even San Francisco’s Lusty Lady peep show theater.
According to a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, there are nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the U.S., including more than 220 worker cooperatives with $128 million in assets, employing nearly 2,400 employees and 55,000 members. By far the largest component of the cooperative movement is consumer cooperatives, encompassing nearly 90 percent of all cooperatives with more than 650,000 employees and nearly $2 billion in assets. In contrast to worker-owner co-ops, consumer co-ops are businesses owned and managed democratically by consumers. (Food cooperatives, such as Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, MA or Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, MN, are good example of this type of co-op).
Massetti also examines the recent movements and policies that are empowering and expanding the growth of worker-owned cooperatives across the country. At all levels of government, the benefits of worker cooperatives are becoming more attractive to policy makers and practitioners alike as a powerful alternative to the neoliberal philosophy that has dominated in the U.S. for the past 30 years. Anchoring local businesses and encouraging greater democratic participation in the workplace are necessary tools to help businesses and communities thrive in the U.S. as the country enters a new age of global economic competition.