Using Employee Ownership to Build a More Equitable Future for Work

When the trash collectors of the 1930s (then known as “scavengers”) formed cooperatives to organize their work, they did so to meet an immediate and pressing need for better jobs. Their intervention in the labor market was a crisis response to market gaps. But they also laid out a vision and a set of principles that pointed at a different way to organize economic activity. Cooperatives have always walked this line between practical and visionary.

Market gaps change with the times, but employee ownership is once again being used to fill them. As job creation in our economy concentrates in the service sector, Americans increasingly find themselves working contractor gigs and patching together multiple part-time jobs. They are too often put in the position of organizing their work lives through online platforms and programming their replacements. Even in small business, which employs about half of the entire private sector workforce, job numbers are shrinking and are becoming less stable.

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