Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Worker (and other) cooperatives

As I have posted before on when worker cooperative may be a viable governance structure, and when they won't be, I thought I would take a look at just how large a force they are in the economy. Data is a bit hard to get but I did come across this from the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Though we lack comprehensive data on the nature and scope of worker cooperatives in the U.S., researchers and practitioners conservatively estimate that there are over 350 democratic workplaces in the United States, employing over 5,000 people and generating over $500 million in annual revenues.
Given the size of the US economy, 5000 people is not many.

However if you look at all cooperatives things look a bit different. The International Co-operative Alliance states that there are
30,000 co-operatives [which] provide more than 2 million jobs
Of course cooperatives being big employers is nothing new for New Zealand given the size of Fonterra (17,300 employees as at 2012). But to put this into perspective Wal-Mart alone employs around 2.2 million people world-wide.


Brett said...

The US has a few big companies that aren't really worker-cooperatives, although they're employee-owned. Publix has 140,000 employees and billions in revenue, WinCo has about 14,000 employees, and so forth.

I'm skeptical they'll ever dominate an economy without regulatory systems set-up to favor their creation (or the conversion of companies into cooperatives or employee-owned firms). It's risky enough just for one individual to start a company, but with cooperatives you have to get a whole group of people to try it unless they're simply taking over a "recovered" asset (like a derelict factory).

Paul Walker said...

There is a problem with starting a worker coop in that if the workers are also investors in the firm they have all their eggs in one basket and would suffer badly if the firm goes under.