|Publication Type||Magazine Article|
|Year of Publication||2003|
There are around 300 worker-owned businesses in the United States, totaling about 10,000 workers, according to recent figures from the Grassroots Economic Organizing newsletter, the movement’s major organ. CICOPA, the branch of the International Cooperative Association that promotes worker ownership (which is known by its French acronym) says some element of worker ownership reaches about 50 million people worldwide.
Still, worker-owned businesses represent only a tiny slice of the United States’ economy. But that, democratic workplace advocates maintain, can change. Leaders from Midwest worker cooperatives gathered mid-April 2003 at the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus to talk through plans for a national worker cooperative federation and strategies to gain prominence on national and regional stages. The Madison meeting followed conferences on both coasts last year, the first gatherings of worker co-ops in decades.
A good share of the weekend conference in Madison, though, was devoted to discussions of basic business finances and mechanisms for handling interpersonal conflict—the nuts-and-bolts sharing that shows how far the concept of worker cooperatives and the alternative economy they represent has come and how far it has to go.
“Those of us who recognize the economy doesn’t work for the majority of people need to have a viable alternative that’s not theoretical,” says Lance Haver of Phoenix Foods, an urban Philadelphia basil farm transitioning to worker control. “We’re very aware that we’re the only alternative to the Enron model that has any type of credibility right now.”