New York, NY
Worker Cooperatives Lead With Policy in the Largest City in the Country
New York City is the largest and most complex city in the United States, and its economy is marked by extremely high inequality. With more than 325,000 employees and annual purchasing in the billions, the city government is a major player in the local economy and has a highly centralized “strong” mayor-council system. In 2014, New Yorkers elected a staunchly progressive mayor who publicly committed early in his term to worker cooperatives as a strategy to address inequality. The City Council allocated $1.2M in discretionary funding for worker co-op development in 2014, and in 2015 the allocation increased to $2.1M. This infusion of funds has resulted in a flurry of activity by a loose coalition of co-op developers and support organizations to promote, start, and convert existing businesses to worker cooperatives.
The South Bronx is home to the country’s largest worker cooperative, Cooperative Home Care Associates (founded 1985), with 2,200 workers, almost all women of color, doing home health care work. The rest of New York City’s worker co-ops are very new and small-scale—grassroots cooperatives initiated by workers themselves. The nascent coalition formed around city funding is still formulating its strategy and membership.