A Multi-Stakeholder Co-op has some worker co-op features. It has two or more classes of members and the membership classes may include: workers, consumers, producers, investors and/or other possible stakeholders.
Worker Shareholder Co-ops
Shareholder cooperatives are incorporated co-ops that hold partial ownership of the business in which the co-op’s members are employed. The following is excerpted from the Quebec government document entitled “Outil Coop: Coopératives de travailleurs actionnaires” (available in French only.) “Shareholder Workers’ Cooperatives: Section 225 of the Québec Co-operatives Act authorizes a worker’s co-operative to acquire end hold shares of a corporation provided this acquisition creates employment for the members. Because of its share capital, the co-operative may participate in the management of the business and the workers may influence work organization. It also constitutes an efficient way of ensuring shareholder renewal and even business succession.”
It is possible for worker co-ops to be unionized. Most of the unionized worker co-ops in the country grew up in cases of existing unionized businesses which failed, where the workers took over. In these co-ops, although all of the same people might be a member of each entity (the co-op and the union), the two entities play different roles. The role of the union is primarily to look after the interests of the workers as workers, whereas the role of the co-op is primarily to look after the interests of the cooperative business. Some co-ops decide to unionize in solidarity with the broader union movement. Unfortunately, in some co-ops the non-management workers may come to feel unfairly treated and seek to unionize over the objections of the management employees. This is an unfortunate situation, and is a sign that some members feel excluded from decision-making. The CWCF has the long-range goal of drafting a model collective agreement for use in unionized worker co-ops.
The worker co-op movement and the union movement have much in common. Both have their roots in the 19th century as a response to excesses in industrial capitalism. Both aim to improve the lives of working people, and increase democracy in the workplace. The difference of course is that most unions function within the context where the workers report to an external employer, not a collective of themselves; whereas in co-ops, the workers own and control the business. A union and a worker co-op are each a different and valid response to less-than-ideal working conditions.