Worker co-op works for shop

UB Law clinic helps smooth out the bumps

By: Lauren Kirkwood Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer September 2, 2014

Like any business, before Baltimore Bicycle Works could open its doors in 2008, the bike shop needed to establish its legal structure. 

But rather than envisioning the shop as a typical corporation or an LLC, its owners pictured a much less traditional organization: They wanted to form a worker cooperative, a democratic enterprise in which each worker is also a part-owner of the business, and all workers have a vote in decisions.

“The worker-owner model allows for everybody to have a say in the work they do,” said Meredith Mitchell, one of the shop’s six worker-owners. “It expects that people will take on leadership roles and provide vision and direction for the organization.”

While estimates put the number of worker co-ops in the U.S. at about 300 to 400, a buzz has been slowly building around the idea — especially with would-be business owners who want social purpose to be an ingrained part of their enterprise, said Parag Khandhar, a clinical teaching fellow in the Community Development Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

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