Q: How can Extension professionals, business and community developers build a brighter future, robust local economies, and living wage job opportunities in Appalachia?
Worker-owned cooperatives, defined by two advocates of the model as, “values-driven businesses that put worker and community benefit at the core of their purpose . . . [in which] workers participate in the profits, oversight, and, to varying degrees, the management of the organization, using democratic practices,” (Hoover & Abell 2016).
The Center for Cooperatives and partners are growing co-op culture in Appalachia! Join us on March 22, 2019 at West Virginia State University Economic Development Center in Charleston.
Check back soon for registration details!
Hoover, M. & Abell, H. (2016). The Cooperative Growth Ecosystem: Inclusive Economic Development in Action. Project Equity and the Democracy at Work Institute.
Low salaries, high turnover and lack of employee engagement are prevalent in food service. Eight food entrepreneurs had a solution; they would create a restaurant that empowered employees through ownership. In 1985 they opened Casa Nueva, the first worker-owned cooperative restaurant in Ohio, in the heart of downtown Athens.
In 1987 Casa Nueva worked with the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) to develop and market a product line of salsas and other value-added goods. The restaurant added a cantina in 1993, and a second kitchen in 2003.
Worker ownership in practice
Casa Nueva carries out daily operations with the help of worker-owners and non-owners (associates). 1/3 of staff are worker-owners, 2/3 are associates. Associates have an opportunity to apply for ownership after working 1000 hours in the restaurant, serving on special committees and earning positive performance evaluations. The co-op board of directors vote to approve or disapprove the associate’s application for ownership. All new owners contribute equity. The cost is offset by a raise that goes into effect when an associate becomes a member of the cooperative. Other benefits of membership include: voting rights, paid time-off, insurance and scheduling preference.
For over 30 years Casa has provided worker-owners with meaningful work, sustainable jobs and opportunities for advancement. Fresh ingredients, Mexican-inspired flavors, culture, music and art delight locals and students of Ohio University, the city’s main economic driver.
The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives is gathering data on worker co-ops and other democratic workplaces in their annual census. If you are a worker co-op or other democratic workplace, please consider responding. Reliable data contributes to cooperative development in many ways!
U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives Annual Economic Census of Worker Cooperatives and Democratic Workplaces