Building Community Wealth on Long Island
The Long Island Progressive Coalition has a new campaign: building community wealth through the development of worker cooperatives. Our ultimate goals are to end generational poverty and create high-quality jobs that will enable low income workers to support their families, while stabilizing their communities and environments. This is Community Wealth Building. This is not a new strategy. All across the world there are worker cooperatives that are successfully improving workers lives and creating thriving businesses. It’s now time to bring this strategy to Long Island.
Worker-owned cooperatives are business enterprises that are owned, governed and operated by their workers. All worker cooperatives have two common characteristics:
- Member-owners invest in and own the business together, and share the enterprise’s profits
- Decision-making is democratic, with each member having one vote. Currently, there are over 300 worker-owned cooperatives in the U.S., operating in a diverse range of industries.
While the majority are small businesses, with fewer than 50 workers, there are also notable larger enterprises. Worker-owned cooperatives play a critical role in building community wealth for several key reasons:
- They create quality, empowering jobs for community members.
- Since most workers are community residents, worker cooperatives are more likely than other businesses to employ sustainable business practices that do not harm the local environment, and profits are more likely to remain and circulate within the community.
- As democratically run organizations, cooperatives help member-owners develop critical leadership skills and practice direct, grassroots decision-making.
- They allow workers to accumulate wealth and build assets through having an ownership stake in the cooperative.
The goal of this new initiative is to build a Long Island ecosystem of support to create new worker cooperatives. All across the world there are initiatives that have the same goal. Recently New York City allocated $1.2 million for a new Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative. A recent report documents the success of the funds in building new cooperatives and helping low income workers. For Long Island, we aim to focus in two areas: converting successful businesses into cooperatives, and starting new worker cooperatives, with a particular focus on low income workers.
Converting Successful Businesses
We will be focusing a large part of our effort on the “Silver Tsunami”, which references the huge number of small business owners that are at or near retirement age. While some of these owners will pass the business to family members, many will not. The owners without a family option will be looking to sell or shut down the business. If these owners sell to their workers, creating a worker cooperative, there are major federal and state tax advantages for them. We will be identifying these owners and helping them understand the significant tax and social benefits that they can achieve by turning their business into a worker cooperative. By converting successful businesses into worker cooperatives we will be building community wealth for the low income communities, since the workers in these businesses are traditionally low income minority community members.
Assisting Low Income Workers in Starting Their Own Worker Cooperatives
Such worker cooperatives can fill a vital community need, build assets and wealth among low-income individuals and neighborhoods, particularly immigrant communities, and thus contribute to the creation of more inclusive, economically viable-communities. We intend to be working with low income communities across Long Island to help them start new cooperatives, utilizing their skills and addressing the needs of the market in their neighborhoods.