Non-Profit Quarterly – September 7, 2022

Editors’ note: This article is from the Summer 2022 issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly, “Owning Our Economy, Owning Our Future.

I learned about the concept of worker ownership in 2011, when I was hired into a research position at the National Center for Employee Ownership. Although the idea that workers can and should own their own workplaces deeply resonated with me, it felt too technical to be a transformative tool for economic or racial justice. Worker ownership involves corporate governance, legal structures, stock. I couldn’t explain it to my family or peers, or even to my nonprofit colleagues.

Since then—via positions at two other national worker ownership nonprofits, launching my own consulting firm, and service on more than a dozen boards—I have had the opportunity to design worker ownership plans and support the development of new worker-owned companies, using nearly every form of worker ownership. The projects have ranged from three-person worker cooperatives to a joint venture employing more than forty thousand workers. And although many people in my personal network still don’t quite understand what I do, it is clear to me that worker ownership is a linchpin in the movement for economic justice.

Community organizations are starting new co-ops to create job access for those excluded from the economy. Unions are leveraging worker ownership to build more agency and economic security for their members. Movement builders are developing worker cooperatives as living examples of what a reimagined economy based in mutual care can look like.

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