Employee Ownership, Democratic Control, and Working-Class Empowerment - CLEO Skip to main content


Organizational scholars and workplace equality advocates have largely dismissed the ability of democratic employee ownership to deliver power and autonomy to working-class employees.  This chapter addresses this gap by investigating how two 100% employee-owned and democratically governed worker-owned cooperatives (businesses where employees are both the owners and the directors of their workplaces) succeeded and failed to give working-class people control over their workplaces. This study addresses the ability of democratic employee ownership to create working-class empowerment, to extend power and autonomy within a context of the necessary economic enfranchisement to enjoy it. The chapter reveals that democratic employee ownership can create working-class empowerment, but it requires formal and nonhierarchical organizational structures supported by organizational narratives that recognize the legitimate and intersecting importance of both race/ ethnicity and gender with class in the workplace.