Frequently Asked Questions

What is Workplace Democracy?

Workplace Democracy allows workers of a firm to have a meaningful voice on conditions of work and the strategic direction of the firm. Workplace democracy involves democratic control over the functions of management. Workplace democracy can take several forms but the one that allows workers to have the most significant democratic control are worker cooperatives and other forms of worker ownership.

Why Workplace Democracy?

We live in a representative democracy. We spend more than 50% of our time awake at work. Why not more democracy at work!

A business owned by the employees and/or the community can be an integral part of a strong local economy.  Cooperative business principals encourage a company to make decisions based not only upon rates of growth and profit , but also upon the effect on employee owners, customers and the surrounding community of stakeholders.

What is a Cooperative?

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.  Ranging from small scale to mutli-million dollar businesses across the globe, cooperatives employ more than 100 million women and men and have more than 800 million individual members.  Cooperatives are commonly owned by employees, customers, producers or some combination of these stakeholders.

What is a Worker Cooperative?

It is a cooperatively owned company wherein employees own the majority of shares in the company, worker-owners participate in the ownership decisions of the corporation typically using a one person-one vote system.  Profits from the business are returned to the worker-owners in the form of patronage dividends.

Workers own their jobs, and thus have not only a direct stake in the local environment but the power to decide to do business in a way that is sustainable for us all. The worker cooperative movement is increasingly recognized as part of the larger movement for sustainability. Worker cooperatives tend to create long-term stable jobs, sustainable business practices, and linkages among different parts of the social economy.

Principles of Cooperation

Statement on the Cooperative Identity

The following principles and definitions have been established by the International Cooperative Alliance.  ICA is an independent, non-governmental association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide. Founded in 1895, ICA has 265 member organizations from 96 countries active in all sectors of the economy. Together these co-operatives represent nearly one billion individuals worldwide.


A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.


Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.


The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

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