Employee Owned Cooperatives: a Responsible Career Option That Could Rebuild the Broken Economy
A major problem in today's economy is an absurd level of financial inequality. As economists explain, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and the middle class is shrinking. The end result is an America that today's world never would have imagined. Once upon a time, United States citizens could live comfortably, raise a family, buy a home, and go to the doctor with little debt. Now, the economic climate is spiraling out of control with a redistribution of wealth that hurting hard workers everywhere.
While some CEOs are fortunate enough to bring home salaries of over $30 Million, the majority of Americans are struggling. According to Yahoo! Finance, 81 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the population, and between 66 percent of all income growth occurred for the top 1 percent of people. When it comes to meeting basic expenses, the numbers are equally alarming. Only 5 percent of households have earned enough to match the rising costs of housing since 1975, 61 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and the bottom 50 percent of wage earners own 1 percent of the nation's wealth. To top it all off, the ratio between an executive's paycheck to an average employee's paycheck ranges between 300 and 500 to 1. In 1950, that number was 30 to 1.
What's happening to our country? How is it possible to think about making responsible career decisions with such a cutthroat struggle to make ends meet.
The problem is that the lines between America and corporate America have become blurred. Hierarchy-driven businesses are orienting the status quo of everyday economics--creating dangerous glass ceilings and an absence of social equity. While some might blame human nature, others blame capitalism and greed. No matter the cause, the end result is the same. People of all ages, social backgrounds, and industries are hurting.
With large corporations holding so much power in the United States, it's sometimes easy to forget the possibility of revamping the American business mindset. Believe it or not, there are alternatives to the traditional top-down business hierarchies that translate directly into top-down social hierarchies.
A worker-owned cooperative is a business model with the potential to reinvent corporate America. In this type of business, every employee is an equal shareholder. No, it's not a company based on anarchy. In fact, it's a business that is based on the true essence of democracy.
Some might stereotype corporate cooperatives as unprofitable organizations without significant economic sway. Believe it or not, there are more than 29,000 business co-ops that make more than $500 billion in revenue each year. Beyond giving a business a democratic feel, worker cooperatives can help low-income employees push beyond socioeconomic glass ceilings. With affordable health insurance and retirement plans, people can work towards economic stability, regardless of whether they are the janitor or company president.
Some might stereotype corporate cooperatives as unprofitable organizations without significant economic sway. Believe it or not, there are more than 29,000 business co-ops that make more than $500 billion in revenue each year. Beyond giving a business a democratic feel, worker cooperatives can help low-income employees push beyond socioeconomic glass ceilings. With affordable health insurance and retirement plans, people of all positions can work towards economic stability, regardless of whether they are the janitor or company president.
Employee owned companies can be nonprofits, law firms, client-service businesses, food industry corporations, retail companies, and more. The Teamworks Cooperative Network, for example, provides house cleaning services in the Silicon Valley Area. In Vermont, Ronin Tech Collective is a web development firm. No matter the service they provide, these firms share a common vision of employee equity.
It's no doubt that these past few years have inspired people to rethink America's economic identity. Maybe one of the most straightforward answers is a responsible career option that facilitates a healthy distribution of wealth-- not through communism or socialism but through the democratic principles that are philosophically fundamental to the American way.
Photo Credit: WTL Photos