There are many types of cooperatives, or “co-ops”, out there – models of organization that have been around for centuries upon centuries. Black Coffee is amongst perhaps the rarest variety, the worker cooperative, and is one of only a handful of worker co-ops in Seattle. According to a recent publication by YES! Magazine, worker co-ops make up only 1% of co-ops in the United States, which makes them a extremely rare within our economy as a whole. For urbanites, more commonly known cooperatives are financial co-ops, like credit unions, and consumer co-ops, like community owned grocery stores.
Here’s a summary of the worker co-ops from wikipedia’s entry:
A worker cooperative is a cooperative owned and democratically managed by its worker-owners. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which managers and administration is elected by every worker-owner, and finally it can refer to a situation in which managers are considered, and treated as, workers of the firm. In traditional forms of worker cooperative, all shares are held by the workforce with no outside or consumer owners, and each member has one voting share. In practice, control by worker-owners may be exercised through individual, collective or majority ownership by the workforce, or the retention of individual, collective or majority voting rights (exercised on a one-member one-vote basis). A worker cooperative, therefore, has the characteristic that the majority of its workforce own shares, and the majority of shares are owned by the workforce.