Worker’s co-operatives are co-operative enterprises that are owned and democratically controlled by the employees. The main purpose of a worker co-operative is to provide employment for its members. Each member has one vote regardless of how much money they have invested in the co-op. The co-op’s assets are collectively owned and surplus earnings are allocated to the workers according to policies established by the co-op.
How does it differ from other businesses?
Traditional businesses aim to make profit for the shareholders, who receive their share of profit according to the amount of money thay have invested in the business. Control of the business is also based on the amount of the money invested, usually one vote per share purchased.
In a worker’s co-op, each member has one vote, no matter how many shares they have purchased. They all have equal say in the way the business is run and in the decisions affecting their everyday worklives. Members combine their skills, interests and experiences to achieve mutual goals, such as creating jobs for themselves, providing a community service or increasing democracy in the workplace.
Because they develop the policies that determine the co-operative’s daily and long-term operation, trust, communication and co-operation are vital elements in the co-op’s success.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1st PRINCIPLE: VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2nd PRINCIPLE: DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are organised in a democratic manner.
3rd PRINCIPLE: MEMBER ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th PRINCIPLE: AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th PRINCIPLE: EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th PRINCIPLE: CO-OPERATION AMONG CO-OPERATIVES
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7th PRINCIPLE: CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
While focusing on member needs, co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.