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Home Page > Worker Co-ops
Worker co-ops

In a worker co-op, the employees are the members and owners of the enterprise.  This type of co-op provides member-owners with quality jobs, control over their workplace, and shared responsibility for the management and governance of their enterprise.

Worker co-ops tend to be small to medium-sized businesses and they operate in all sectors of the economy, from graphic design and food catering to manufacturing and forestry. With their unique ownership structure, they are often more successful businesses because the worker owners have a greater stake in the success of the enterprise. 

Some worker co-operatives have been created to hold shares in the business that employs their members. In these cases, the co-op does not have majority control of the business, but it will have at least one seat on the board of directors, along with other shareholder representatives. These are called worker-shareholder co-operatives, and they are most common in Quebec.

The online tools and guides that appear on this page are the best of what is known to exist at this time. New materials will be added as they become available or as further research is completed in this area.  NOTE: If you are aware of other tools or guides that should be added here, please let us know by sending an
How-to guides

Guidelines for Starting a Worker Co-op

The Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF) provides a set of guidelines for all key stages of the development process for worker co-ops - including early stage planning, business planning, incorporation and financing.

Worker Co-op Toolbox - a development guide

This comprehensive guide was developed by a US organization in 2006. It takes a new  group through a step-by-step development process using a case study approach. The 65-page guide covers all stages of development in detail and provides additional tools for effective meetings and board orientation. 

Succession Planning using the Worker Co-op Option

This guide sets a framework and outline for transforming a private business to a worker co-op when a business owner retires. It examines the conditions that must be in place for a successful transition and offers a road map for the process.    

Guides to Union-Led Buyouts

This set of guidelines was developed by a US organization in 2009 to facilitate the conversion of private and other businesses to worker co-operatives.

Employee and Community Buyouts: A Guide to the Succession Process (UK)

Developed in the UK in 2003, this is a comprehensive technical guide for development workers and advisers involved in assisting buyouts of rural businesses by the workers or communities. 

Preparing and Marketing Financing Proposals -- A guide for worker co-ops

This comprehensive guide to capitalizing a worker co-operative was developed by the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation in 2004. It provides a detailed understanding of financing options and structures for co-op success.  

Case Studies

Natural Cycle Courier Co-op (MB) - Video

This video offers a unique view into the day-to-day reality for members of a worker co-op. It is one of a series of 7 videos in development on Winnipeg worker co-ops.  (When you link to YouTube, see Related Videos on the right of the viewing screen, and look for Organic Planet Worker Co-op.)

BC Worker Co-ops - stories and case studies

This webpage includes an introduction to worker co-ops and links to four case studies and stories - see links at bottom of page and in the upper right. 

Worker Co-op Success Stories

This set of stories describes worker co-ops in the U.S. that have successfully launched businesses in the fair trade and green industry sectors.

Neechi Co-op and Northern Star

This brief article offers a summary view of two Winnipeg worker co-ops that are owned by Aboriginal women.

Employee Buyouts - 20 European Case Studies

This collection of case studies, compiled in the late 1990s, offers detailed profiles of buyouts in a range of industries and sectors in the UK, Italy and Spain, including some projects that failed.

Reports and other resources

Strategies for Developing Immigrant Worker Co-ops

This report offers an excellent overview of the strengths, challenges and potential of the worker co-op model for new immigrant populations. Using a case study approach, it examines a range of strategies and methods to use worker co-ops as a way to create jobs and promote social integration.

Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF)

This national federation offers a wide range of supports for Canada's worker co-ops - including advocacy, education and training, group insurance plans, and funding and development tools. 

Other guides and resources for worker co-ops

This page on the CWCF website contains a collection of other tools for worker co-ops, dealing with legal, financing and other issues.