All sectors and industries need workers to function. However, too often staff can find themselves being exploited by upper management and undervalued for the work they provide. The Staffing Cooperative exists to build staffing companies where workers are in control. The Staffing Cooperative is a holding company for staffing companies. Those subsidiaries are investable Delaware corporations, but they’re all majority owned by the cooperative, which is worker-owned. This allows the workers to control the businesses and set priorities. The Staffing Cooperative believes that the equity a worker puts into the company should be valued across the whole and that workers should have the ability to determine who is in a management role.
Cutting Edge attorney, Sarah Kaplan describes her client as, “giving people access to owning a business, access to owning their own jobs. They are turning the power structure of labor upside-down.” Working with an innovative client like The Staffing Cooperative allowed Kaplan to be creative and design a slideshow of bylaws instead of using a dense legal document. She was inspired by Janelle Orsi’s work at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC).
The Staffing Cooperative is pioneering a new structure in cooperatives. Since their inception about four years ago, they’ve created a parent holding company, The Staffing Cooperative, that oversees subsidiary companies. Currently, there are two subsidiaries. The first, CORE Staffing in Baltimore, was created in 2016. It is made up of worker-owners who have previously been incarcerated and now staff jobs in a variety of industries including construction, demolition, carpentry, food service operation, and more. Workers have the opportunity to work part-time or hourly full-time jobs. CORE allows workers to grow communally and socially as they reintegrate into society.
Tribe is The Staffing Cooperative’s newest subsidiary of tech workers. These workers are located all over the country and are typically staffed into tech agencies as web designers, creatives, and developers. Tribe also developed the staffing platform that is used by The Staffing Cooperative, CORE, and will continue to be used by all future worker-owners.
When asked about The Staffing Cooperative’s long-term plans, their team hopes to continue acquiring and creating new subsidiaries with workers in different industries. This would allow for a conglomerate of industry knowledge that can be used to benefit workers and the overall health of the cooperative. In addition, the goal isn’t just to acquire for growth, but to support workers long-term and provide ways for them to move between industries. Typical worker-cooperatives are not looking at scale in the same way. The Staffing Cooperative is creating a new way of thinking about cooperative potential. By being a holding company on a large scale, there’s potential for higher wages and rates, more benefits, and better insurance policies.
We asked The Staffing Cooperative for three pieces of advice for others interested in worker-ownership models. They said:
- Don’t think of it as structure first, think of the worker first.
- Don’t let a company’s structure get in the way.
- Prioritize relationships. For them, it took sitting together as an entire team and hashing out what exactly membership would look like.
Kaplan expressed how much she loves working with her client and that she’s “proud of them for taking the lead and creating a well-optimized structure that is designed to be accessible for investors, but the cooperative maintains control.”
If you’re interested in getting involved or learning more about The Staffing Cooperative, you can contact them at email@example.com or on Twitter at @staffing_coop. They also accept donations! They’re hoping to continue growing the worker-owner training program and even have plans to launch a school through their fiscally sponsored non-profit program. To donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you interested in learning more about structuring a cooperative? Do you want to talk to an attorney about how cooperatives can take in outside investment? Contact Sarah@cuttingedgecounsel.com