Founding Worker Cooperatives: Social Movement Theory and the Law

Source: Ariana R. Levinson, University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2014-18, April 24, 2014

From the abstract:
This is the first legal article, to the author’s knowledge, to apply social movement theory to the foundation of worker cooperatives in the United States. It also begins a series of articles with three goals. First, the application of social movement theory to worker cooperatives should suggest further areas of inquiry in developing the various social movement theories. Second, unions and others can seek guidance from social movement theory as they seek to give workers a voice at work by establishing worker cooperatives. Finally, social movement theory may suggest how the law can be reformed to aid in creating movements to establish cooperatives. This first article applies three social movement theories to five historical examples of worker cooperatives in the United States. It focuses on the establishment of the cooperatives rather than their success over time. The article proceeds in six parts. Part I introduces the subject. Part II describes worker cooperatives generally and provides five historical examples of worker cooperatives. Part III describes three social movement theories, applies them to various of the movements to found worker cooperatives, and draws conclusions and suggests further areas of inquiry. Part IV provides insights for those wishing to establish cooperatives, emphasizing the importance of the cooptation of structures intended for other purposes, education of leaders, internal organizing, availability of resources, and government support. Part V briefly mentions potential legal reforms, and Part VI concludes.