Worker Ownership As the Basis for an Integrated, Proactive Development Model


The Philadelphia Association for Cooperative Enterprises (“PACE”), is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that provides technical assistance on a regional level to employee-owned enterprises. Incorporated in 1976, PACE is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. Like many other such organizations, PACE began by reacting to the need for effective conversions in the face of plant shutdowns. The benefits of PACE included both the positive publicity given to employee ownership when jobs were being saved and the opportunity to cultivate union interest in developing worker-owned companies. As major collaborators, unions have contributed their ability to organize workers, their access to financial resources, and their expertise in developing political and economic support. With union support, PACE can provide the necessary legal, business, organizational and educational capability to make worker-owned businesses successful.

PACE’s technical assistance is no longer provided solely in response to a specific situation such as a threatened plant shutdown. Instead, PACE initiates employee-owned businesses according to a defined set of criteria. PACE┬áhas assisted in establishing five worker-owned supermarkets in Philadelphia, and is actively seeking opportunities to expand the network. This proactive strategy has evolved from creation of individual enterprises to development of a network of integrated cooperatives. I hope the development model discussed in this article will be replicated elsewhere in other industries. The ultimate goal for the supermarket network is to attain control over a large section of the food retailing market in order to promote community economic development and working conditions sensitive to the needs of the poor, working people, women and minorities.

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