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Bill introduced in US Congress to strengthen worker coop sector

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2024 – A new bill introduced in the US Congress aims to bolster the country’s worker cooperative sector through comprehensive support programmes and initiatives. It was sponsored by Representatives Ro Khanna, Jamaal Bowman, and Rashida Tlaib.

The National Worker Cooperative Development and Support Act [HR 7721] seeks to empower federal agencies like the Small Business Administration [SBA], Internal Revenue Service [IRS], Department of the Treasury, Department of Commerce, US Department of Agriculture [USDA], and Department of Labor [DOL] to implement measures to aid worker cooperatives.
The proposed bill mandates these agencies to undertake various actions, including revising regulations to eliminate barriers hindering the adoption of the worker cooperative model, facilitating access to capital, offering education, outreach, and technical assistance, as well as conducting research on worker cooperatives.

Key provisions of the bill include directing the Small Business Administration to develop online educational materials in multiple languages and conduct outreach in non-English-speaking communities.

It also establishes an interagency US Council on Worker Cooperatives within the Department of Labor to coordinate efforts in developing a federal strategy for worker cooperatives and allocating funds for a 10-year, US$ 60 million Small Business Administration lending pilot programme tailored for worker cooperatives.

Esteban Kelly, Executive Director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives [USFWC], lauded the bill as a vital solution to address the impending small business crisis in the face of retiring owners.

He emphasized the resilience and community-strengthening aspects of worker cooperatives, underscoring the importance of the bill in ensuring business continuity and job preservation.

Representative Khanna highlighted the positive impacts of worker cooperatives on local communities, emphasising their role in promoting employee empowerment, equitable wealth distribution, and job retention.

He said the bill is significant in facilitating the conversion of existing small businesses into worker cooperatives, aligning with American values of liberty, democracy, and fair opportunity.

Meanwhile, Representative Bowman emphasised the potential of the worker cooperative model in building local wealth and strengthening democracy, emphasising the need for federal support and financing to realise this potential.

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