Polls show young Americans growing increasingly sour on capitalism and growing more attracted to socialism. Could it be because “capitalism” has come to mean “big soulless corporations” to today’s young people instead of merely the ability to freely exchange goods and services with your neighbor?
If so, tell them about co-ops – which are really just corporations with different methods of structuring ownership and profit-sharing.
Nearly a decade after the beginning of the Great Recession, the economic recovery has been concentrated in a few sectors and a few places, mostly fields in technology and in coastal cities. Many Americans have been left behind in jobs with stagnating wages, while rising housing costs prevent them from moving. To stabilize their communities and rebuild the household wealth lost in the financial crisis, many Americans—particularly those in once decaying inner city neighborhoods—are turning to the model of co-operative businesses, which emphasize joint ownership by workers and democratic management.
James Razsa, a 32-year-old resident of the traditionally blue-collar Boston neighborhood of Dorchester, is one of them. He’s a founding partner of Democracy Brewing, a co-op brewery currently raising money to start production.
“I’ve done a lot of unpleasant jobs,” he said. “Starbucks was where I started to understand that a lot of my co-workers were living in poverty. We were taking $2,000 in profit a day and sending it to people who had never been there.”
Starting a co-op was a way to have the best of both worlds, he said. He gets to do a job he loves and be a business owner.
Razsa isn’t alone, either.
The number of worker co-operatives in the United States has been growing for two decades, according to the Democracy at Work Institute, and employee-ownership advocacy organizations such as the Democracy Collaborative and the Surdna Foundation report surging interest since the financial crisis.