Worker Co-ops 101

The materials below are not specific “How To” documents, but rather they provide information that illuminate what worker cooperatives are in general, the various organizational structures they can take and the philosophies that influence this unique business model.

What is a Worker Cooperative 1pg_handout A double-sided one-pager published by the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives that concisely answers the question at hand.

Que es una Cooperativa de Trabajadores The Spanish language version of the above document.

Introduction to Worker Cooperatives: A Four Part Tutorial provides an excellent overview of worker cooperatives and the fundamentals of starting one.

The-worker-co-operative-code-of-governance I love this guide! Published by Co-operatives UK, a “national trade body that campaigns for co-operation and works to promote, develop and unite co-operative enterprises” in United Kingdom, this simple, bullet-pointed guide is a great introductory to what worker coops are all about.

The-worker-co-operative-code-of-governance_SpanishTranslation The Spanish language version of the above document.

Articles that give a great insight into what worker coops are in terms of organizational structure, operations, financial/legal obligations, and labor law:

CA Business Law Practitioner article by Neil Helfman


Types of Coops Written by Andrew McLeod as part of the Cooperative Starter Series for the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, this 1.5 page handout is a great overview of the various types of cooperatives. In particular, it gives a one-paragraph description of the following: Consumer cooperatives, Worker cooperatives, Producer cooperatives, Purchasing/service cooperatives, Housing cooperatives and also presents an example of a hybrid cooperative.

Cooperative Manifesto by Tim Huet Written by a business attorney and a founding member of the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives development collective (they’re the folks responsible for the six worker-owned Arizmendi Bakery & Pizza shops around the San Francisco Bay Area), this document offers a series of arguments as to why “There Is No More Important Social Change Work You Can Do Than Cooperative Development.”

Worker Cooperative Advantages: Business Arguments, Social Arguments; and Alleged Barriers. Tim Huet compiled these lists as a basis for discussion/debate; it should be understood that he does not personally endorse the alleged advantages or barriers listed in these documents.

Worker Coop Advantages, Business Arguments.

Worker Cooperative Advantages, Social Arguments.

Alleged Barriers to Cooperative Operation/Development . The alleged barriers are organized into three sections: barriers to start-up, barriers to continuation or coops in general and barriers to growth.

General Comparison by Corporation-type & Co-operatives Compared to Private Business Models Published by The Ontario Co-operative Association these two tables offer a quick look at the main structural, legal, and economic similarities and differences between the cooperative model vs. mainstream business entities.

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