Posted December 21, 20212:57 pm
Have you ever thought, “my job would be better if the workers made the decisions, not the bosses”? There’s a name for that: it’s called a cooperative.
A cooperative is a business owned by the people who operate it, or the people who use its services, or both. It might be a housing cooperative, where tenants own a building together; or a worker cooperative, like a restaurant where the employees share ownership and management of the company. Most importantly, power and profits are shared by everyone in the co-op. Most cooperatives follow a set of values called the “cooperative principles^,” which state that a co-op should be inclusive, democratic, and community-focused.
Cooperatives help people come together and solve problems. For example, housing co-ops can help keep rents affordable. If a landlord wants to sell an apartment building to a developer, the tenants can form a cooperative and pool their money to buy it themselves. Together, the tenants manage the building and decide when to raise the rent.
Cooperatives help workers build wealth. For example, many worker cooperatives offer ownership shares to workers. Many also distribute profits to employees based on hours worked. This helps workers build savings, start retirement funds, and access better loans for education and housing. This means when the business succeeds, the workers get paid more.
Cleveland Owns is a nonprofit that helps cooperatives get started. Right now, Cleveland Owns is supporting the Cleveland Solar Cooperative (CSC). “We’re frustrated that big companies aren’t
doing more to stop climate change,” says CSC member Will Cuneo. “We want to see solar panels in our neighborhoods owned by residents, not corporations.” Solar panels are too expensive for most people to buy alone. By forming a cooperative, CSC members hope they can buy panels together.
“We’re fighting for collective ownership through projects like Cleveland Solar Cooperative to make our economy more democratic,” says Jonathan Welle, co-founder and Executive Director of Cleveland Owns. “We’ll achieve an equitable economy only when ownership is shared in an equitable way.” By sharing ownership, cooperatives help build an economy that works for everyone.
To find out more about Cleveland Owns and cooperatives, visit www.clevelandowns.coop.
^ The 7 Cooperative Principles: https://ncbaclusa.coop/resources/7-cooperative-principles/
Written by Cleveland Owns
This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 37, Issue 2, in Winter 2021. See full issue at this link: “The Alert” – Volume 37, Issue 2 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (lasclev.org).