NYC Set to Triple Number of Worker Cooperatives

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By Oscar Perry Abello
Next City
January 11, 2016

Worker cooperatives can sometimes sound too good to be true: a business owned and controlled by its workers, who each usually get an equal share of the profits. Compensation for some has gone from $6.25 an hour to $25 an hour. Flexible schedules. Worker majorities on the boards of directors interviewing CEO candidates. Dignity at work and wealth at home for some of the most marginalized — a group of Filipina women, many of them survivors of human trafficking, launched a cleaning worker cooperative in New York City last September.

For many reasons, worker cooperatives have had difficulty growing in number and size. Comprehensive data on worker cooperatives are hard to find, but the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) currently estimates there are around 350 in the U.S., employing about 5,000 people. That’s an average co-op size of 15 or so. They do seem to get a good amount of business, cumulatively earning around $500 million in annual revenues.

Seeing the promise of the worker cooperative model to address inequality of income and opportunity, the city of New York announced a $1.2 million Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative (WCBDI) over a year ago — and initial results from that effort are in.

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