Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Tsu-Yu Tsao

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the large void of cooperative firms in the U.S. market economy. In an economy of tens of millions of businesses, it is reported that there are only 300 plus cooperatives. The causes of rarity of worker cooperatives are numerous and vary in scope. There are micro level logistical causes of rarity, and macro level systemic and institutional causes of rarity. Through a case study I conducted in January 2011, in the San Francisco Bay Area, I interviewed cooperative members about their opinions and thoughts on the rarity of worker coops and the success of worker coops in the Bay Area. In addition to individuals, I interviewed coop members representing their entire firm, to learn about the procedural realities of the coops in the Bay Area. I then compared all my findings to a collection of literature that covers firm theory, firm behavior, and cooperative firm behavior. The findings of this paper suggest that there is a “chicken and egg” type situation leading to the cause of cooperative rarity. The main hinderances to the prevalence of cooperatives are lending options, public awareness and support, and logistical complexities that require complex solutions. Nonetheless, the theoretical benefits of cooperatives was observed, which are increased job security, workplace democracy and stable-growth socially conscious businesses.

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