If you’ve never thought about starting a business chances are you know someone who has. It’s a common dream, to work for yourself, not someone else. There is actually another option: working with each other. In a worker cooperative, the coworker-owners each own an equal share of the business. Major decisions are voted on, so everyone has a say in how the work gets done. There is an alternative to widening income inequality and the loss of workers rights and that is Worker Cooperatives.

Just like starting a traditional business, starting a cooperative can be daunting. Some local organizations are coming together to help. Led by Fuerza Laboral, in partnership with the city of Central Falls, Navigant Credit Union, Democracy at Work Providence, Small Business Development Center Rhode Island and Center for Justice, will be conducting a ten weekend Cooperative Academy. Topics covered will include:

  • finance
  • governance
  • customer service
  • branding
  • marketing
  • making a business plan
  • laws and statutes
  • accounting, pricing
  • leadership
  • cooperative principles and values

Experts in each field will teach the courses.

Worker co-ops almost always have a component of economic justice due to their nature. Most of the money they make stays in the local community. Unlike what we have grown to expect from traditional business, in cooperatives there is unlikely to be an extreme gap between highest and lowest paid employees. Studies have also shown that pay equality between genders is more likely in co-ops.

Applications for this program must also have a social justice component to the business. If your not sure about this aspect, Fuerza Laboral can help.

This course is free to students who are accepted into the program and the application window is open now to September 21st. Childcare and food will be provided. Courses will be bi-lingual in English and Spanish. The classes will be held on weekends between September 22nd and December 8th from 10am to 1pm, in Central Falls.

If you have a business in mind, either a start-up cooperative or the conversion of an existing business into a cooperative, this course is a great opportunity. Rhode Island shouldn’t be a place where democracy only happens in government during an election year. It should happen in our workplaces every day.

Interested parties should contact Fuerza Laboral at (401) 725-2700.


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