First census of worker co-ops in U.S. planned for early 2017

usfwc logo 500 333 2usfwc logo 500 333 2Beginning in January 2017, the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Democracy at Work Institute—in partnership with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—will conduct the first national study of worker co-ops from the perspective of individual worker-owners.

The Worker Co-op Census will further the Federation’s work to build the sector, advocate for worker co-ops and serve its grassroots members. The Federation has spent years telling stories about how democratic worker ownership impacts people’s lives. This project marks the Institute’s first effort to retell that story with high-quality empirical data representing the entire spectrum of workplace experiences and attitudes nationwide.

The Worker Co-op Census will build on the 2010 Shared Capitalism at Work study by Joseph Blasi, Douglas Kruse and Richard Freeman that documented how employee ownership through employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and profit sharing is associated with higher job quality, lower turnover and more involvement in management decisions.

The Federation suspects this association is even stronger in cooperatives that pair worker ownership with democratic governance—but needs the data to prove it.

The study will roll out in two phases. Beginning in January 2017, the research team will invite individuals at worker cooperatives across the country to participate in a brief, confidential survey about their workplace experiences and attitudes. Responses will be aggregated across all participants and no individual or workplace will be identifiable in the results.

Then, in March, the research team will invite a small group of employees and worker-owners to participate in qualitative face-to-face interviews designed to draw out key themes in the quantitative data. Again, all individuals and workplaces will remain anonymous.

If your workplace would like to participate in the Worker Co-op Census or you are interested in using the final dataset in your own research, please contact Study Director Laura Hanson Schlachter at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (608) 262-9588.


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