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Farther, Faster, Together:
The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives at Two

by Melissa Hoover


Editor’s note: On the eve of the first official membership meeting and second annual conference of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) taking place in New York City from October 13-15, we asked Melissa Hover, the first USFWC staff person to review the accomplishments of the new organization and its future plans.  Hoover has been a cooperative activist nearly all of her working life and is currently a collective member at Inkworks Press, a worker-owned and -managed print shop which serves the Bay Area progressive community.


The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives was founded at the U.S. Conference of Democratic Workplaces in Minneapolis, May 2004. The conference elected a board and settled on an outline of the defining characteristics of the organization and its membership. In the two years since then, the elected board has been busy sorting out a structure, building a foundation and exploring possible directions for the Federation. 


Possibly most important, the nascent Federation has served as a contact point and resource for those interested in forming, supporting or studying worker cooperatives. Interest in the democratic worker-owned model is growing around the country. People in diverse fields and industries―truck drivers organizing in South Carolina, motorcycle parts manufacturers in Arizona, college students from several states, bookstore and café workers in Oregon and Maryland, nurses in Wisconsin, food bank workers in Alabama, and teachers in California―have all contacted the Federation over the past two years. They have sought information on all aspects of worker ownership and democratic self-management―how to get started, get technical assistance, get money, and begin operating. The Federation has focused on building the resources to help provide answers. It is hoped that the upcoming national conference will serve as one of those resources, a forum to foster democratic workplace development. Look for some of the people mentioned above at the conference in New York City.



As of this writing, the USFWC has thirty-five members―twenty-two worker cooperatives and  democratic workplaces (four of these are democraticlly-run development and support organizations), four Federation "partners," one cooperative development & support organization, two cooperative financial institutions, and six individuals (see sidebar). We estimate that our membership currently comprises about twenty percent of the worker cooperatives in the United States. Of our twenty-two worker coop/democratic workplace members, nine are on the West Coast, eight are on the East Coast, two in the South and three in the Upper Midwest. Our members' combined gross revenues are just over $87,000,000. They employ almost 700 people combined. We have also partnered with several regional worker cooperative alliances in the Bay Area, Minnesota and the West and East Coast. Together, these regional alliances represent over one hundred democratic and worker-owned businesses.


Thank you and congratulations to the founding members of the US Federation! We expect membership to double (at least) in the rest of 2006. For an application and explanations of membership and dues, see the "How to Join" section of our website at:


The Federation's Board of Directors has filed the paperwork to become a 501(c)(6) nonprofit mutual benefit membership organization in the state of California. The 501(c)(6) form for mutual benefit associations has relatively simple filing requirements and allows us to do lobbying under federal statutes. To seek foundation funding and carry out our education and outreach mission, we also plan to incorporate a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization  To date, we have drafted an activities statement, California Articles of Incorporation and an initial draft of the organizational bylaws. All of these are works in progress―to be reviewed and amended by our membership at the upcoming national conference and membership meeting.


We are continuing negotiations with the National Organizers Alliance (NOA) to offer our members a pension benefit through the NOA. We are also researching the possibility of health benefits and post-retirement medical benefits for USFWC members.

Directory of Worker Cooperatives

The USFWC has been working with several other cooperative groups including Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO), the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), and the Southern Appalachian Center for Cooperative Ownership (SACCO) on the "Data Commons Project" to create an online, easily-updatable directory of worker cooperatives and other solidarity economy initiatives. This is a long-term project with exciting potential, and when completed will be the only current, accurate, open-source directory of its kind. In the meantime, the Federation will print a preliminary directory of worker cooperatives, democratic workplaces and support organizations to be distributed this fall. To learn more about the Data Commons Project, contact Ethan Miller at (207) 946-4478 or by email:

Online Resources

We are currently building an online document library, which will include models and sample documents from worker cooperatives, as well as step-by-step help with incorporation, conversion, and establishing democratic ownership and management practices. 

Looking Ahead

The board and staff are looking forward to the general membership meeting at the upcoming conference as an important point in the growth of the Federation: there we will review the bylaws, create structures for effective member participation, take on new projects, and set a direction for the Federation over the next few years. We hope all members can send a voting representative (or several!) to the conference and meeting, and we are committed to helping make that possible. Our work as a vibrant, powerful grassroots organization is just getting started.



“The mission of the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives is to create stable and empowering jobs and worker-ownership through the development of a thriving cooperative movement. We advance worker-owned, -managed, and -governed workplaces through cooperative education, advocacy and development.”




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