How we structure ownership and work in healthcare matters.

The global pandemic highlighted that our economy halts without reliable trusted care for our loved ones. Yet, as a society we grossly underpay and under care for the very workers we rely on to provide health and care services. Nationally, home care work is one of the lowest paid and fastest growing occupations. Deep racial and gender inequalities that have segregated and stratified our workforce and economy mean that healthcare jobs are dominated by women, people of color and immigrants. These jobs offer low pay with few benefits, unpredictable work schedules, and can also carry significant risk to and potential for exploitation by employers.

One model that differs from reigning hierarchical for-profit, nonprofit and government forms of organization is the worker cooperative. While worker cooperatives are private enterprises, they intend to balance profit-making with worker needs and other values. Emerging worker cooperatives in healthcare provide innovative insights to forge a fundamentally different, more worker-centered approach that include democratic governance and shared profits. The unique organizational structure of worker cooperatives may have implications not only for workers, but for patients as well.

On November 16, 2023, the Carolinas Asset Funders Network and the Greater New York Asset Funders Network joined Adria Scharf, Associate Director, Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing for this cross-regional virtual convening to explore case studies in employee-owned health care businesses and the impact for the Carolinas and Greater New York regions.

The program included:

  • Briefing on case studies of how employee-owned health care businesses can offer better jobs and better care; and
  • Targeted discussion about how to support and grow employee ownership in health care and health services and highlight the role for philanthropy.

Adria Scharf, PhD, is Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University. She conducts research on, and educates about, shared ownership tools for building a more just and equitable economy. Her studies have examined the wealth, wage, and job quality effects of employee ownership.