In a new article for Bloomberg Businessweek, author Lawrence Lanahan explores the reasons why the cooperative business model has gained interest during the pandemic, the struggles cooperatives can face when trying to access financing, and the need for public policy support. Cooperatives are a proven model for providing workers with both equity and a voice in corporate governance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, co-ops have been uniquely positioned to advocate for workers, “Employee co-ops could give workers a voice in the face of mass layoffs and dire health risks on the job,” Lanahan states.
Public policy can also give cooperatives a leg up. At the local level, New York City started its Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative in 2014. U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives Executive Director and NCBA CLUSA board member Esteban Kelly says that helped the city go from fewer than two dozen worker cooperatives to having the most in the nation: more than 130 as of spring 2020. The city recently called worker ownership a “resilience strategy” for struggling business owners, and during the pandemic the city launched programs to help them sell their businesses to their workers.