Cooperatives, ESOPS, Worker Ownership
& Helen Foster Snow

During my 40–year professional career as an academic and consultant, I became significantly involved in the study and promotion of workplace democracy, employee ownership of business enterprises through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), and worker-owned cooperatives and worker cooperative entrepreneurship in the United States, Europe and Asia.  I was also directly involved encouraging and facilitating their expansion in the 20th century. The worker cooperative movement in the United States and Canada was revitalized in the 1970s and 1980s with the help of a number of people, including Frank T. Adams and myself.

The cooperative section of my collection of materials in the Utah State University Department of Special Collections and Archives includes the correspondence and materials that I accumulated in my 23 years of collaboration and friendship with Frank Adams, writing and consulting about worker cooperatives, plus other research and consulting work carried out by me. Their cooperative work, together with their efforts to promote the development of Employee Stock Ownership Plans promoted by the 1971 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) legislation passed by the United States Congress, and my work in promoting workplace democracy in the United States and abroad are now important components of the worker cooperative, workplace democracy and job creation movements in North America, Europe and elsewhere.

This section includes a sampling of the documentary materials generated by me during my work with the International Labor Office (ILO) Cooperative Branch from 1990 to 2004. During that time I helped conduct workshops and wrote documents on worker cooperatives for use by the ILO at their headquarters in Geneva and at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok to assess the need and interest in using cooperative forms of entrepreneurship to generate jobs and employment in several of the countries in the region as well as in other parts of the world.

Also included in this site are materials about the Mondragon Cooperatives, a worker-owned and managed manufacturing and retail company based in the Basque region of Northern Spain. The materials in the Helen Foster Snow Section of this collection add an important dimension to those contained in this Section. These materials can provide researchers and scholars of worker cooperatives and the cooperative movement in general with an extensive set of published and unpublished materials about the expansion of these unique forms of economic activity in the latter part of the 20th and early 21st centuries and complement the other cooperative materials housed in the Special Collections and Archives Department at USU.

The items in this section are from my personal collection along with my correspondence with Helen Foster Snow. I became acquainted with Helen Foster Snow in 1988 while conducting research on worker cooperatives and their value as a means of job creation and economic development in developing countries. In the course of our friendship, Helen gave me materials on worker cooperatives in China, including typescripts and other published materials, and corresponded with me for several years prior to her death. I also traveled to the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, CA, where I went through the materials on China that Helen had given to that institution and photocopied all the materials in their collection relating to worker cooperatives and the Gung Ho movement.

Helen Foster Snow was a Utah native who went to China in 1931, met and married Edgar Snow, and lived in China for nearly 10 years. In 1938, she and her husband Edgar along with a number of other international and Chinese friends started what became known as the "Indusco" worker-owned cooperative system (sometimes called the Gung Ho movement) to provide work and income to Chinese workers dislocated by the Japanese invasion of China prior to World War II. This movement subsequently created over 2,000 worker cooperatives and employed some 30,000 people during its peak wartime period of operation.

A selection of articles and other materials included in this section of my collection includes the following published and unpublished items.


  1. Putting Democracy to Work: A Practical Guide for Starting Worker-owned Businesses.  This book, written with my good friend Frank T. Adams, was first published in 1987 and revised in 1992, provided a comprehensive "how to" guide for those interested in learning about and starting worker-owned cooperative businesses. It has stood the test of time and used copies are still in print and used throughout the world.

    A third edition of Putting Democracy to Work was prepared for publication in 2013, but unfinished because of illnesses experienced by the authors. Because of the interest in and the continuing value of this book, I have included the unfinished Third Edition manuscript (Chapter 7, written by Thomas Beckett, was not finished) so that interested readers may read and use the new material in this revised, but unfinished, edition: Putting Democracy to Work: A Practical Guide for Starting Worker-owned Businesses, Unpublished Third Edition---2016.
  2. ESOPs, Unions, & The Rank and File: An ICA Shirtpocket Book for Union Members in Businesses with ESOPs. Industrial Cooperative Association, first published in 1989. This pamphlet, co-authored with Frank T. Adams, was one of the first efforts in the U.S. to provide information that could be used by individual union members to understand what an ESOP was all about, and to help them organize one if they wanted to do so. It was widely circulated in several printings and editions.
  3. “Some Thoughts about Unions and Employee Ownership." Speech delivered to the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department Coordinating Bargaining Committee, Palm Springs, CA, January 8, 1988.
  4. "Worker Ownership and Community Development." Presentation at the Seventh Annual Conference on Employee Ownership and Participation, Washington, D.C., March 25, 1988.
  5. "Fulfilling the Land-Grant Mission by Promoting Economic Development, Worker Ownership and Workplace Democracy." Logan: Utah Center For Productivity and Quality of Working Life, Utah State University, 1991. 12 pp. This paper was one of my attempts to spell out how USU administrators needed to expand their vision of what the modern land-grant mission should include, and not be limited to agriculture and the mechanic arts.
  6. "ESOPs in the U.S.A." Working Paper. Geneva: Cooperative Branch, International Labour Office, October 1991. 12 pp.
  7. “A concept paper outlining some ways to promote cooperatives for job and enterprise creation: A Working paper,” Cooperative Branch, International Labor Office, September 1991. This paper, written during my sabbatical at the ILO, first outlined my ideas of how the ILO Cooperative Branch could (and why it should) become more active in job creation in developing countries by promoting worker cooperatives.
  8. ESOPs and You. (With Frank T. Adams) Ashville, North Carolina, Southern Appalachan Cooperative Center, 1st edition, 1992.
  9. “The Role of cooperatives in the promotion of employment and income in the rural and informal sectors.”  Presentation at the meeting of Experts on Cooperatives convened by the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, March 29-April 3, 1993. In a background paper that I prepared for the meeting of experts, at the ILO’s request, I tried to get them to embrace and promote worker cooperatives more aggressively—despite the indifference shown by many of the ILO bureaucrats and invited “experts.” Only the Danish trade union representative agreed with me. Most of the rest were indifferent, and wedded to other forms of cooperatives.
  10. “A Modern Tragedy: The failure to enlist workers’ cooperatives in the battle against unemployment,” Internal working paper ILO Cooperative Branch, November 1993. This was my response to the lack of understanding and indifference of those with the vested interests who had held sway at the Meeting of Experts in March 1993. It was one of my most passionately written papers.
  11. “The promotion and development of entrepreneurial initiatives for employment and enterprise creation.” Chapter 12 in The Design and Implementation of Strategies for Local Employment and  Economic Development, ed. by Angel L.Vidal Alonso and Dorthe Nielsen Short. Geneva: International Labour Organization, 1993. (Also, edited copy of paper for this publication dated 17 August 1993).
  12. "Lessons from the past: Selected readings on the systematic development of workers’ cooperatives to generate employment and income." Paper prepared for the ILO Workshop on Workers’ Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand, 30 November-2 December 1993. Bangkok: Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, International Labour Organization. November 1993. 32 pp.
  13. "Cooperative Entrepreneurship for Enterprise Development: An integrated strategy for Organizing Workers’ Cooperatives to Generate Employment and Income." Paper prepared for ILO Workshop on Workers’ Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand, November 30-2 December 1993. Bangkok: Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, International Labour Organization, November 1993. 20 pp.
  14. Working Together to Create Jobs: A Guide to worker-owned cooperative development. I wrote this guide for ILO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, Bangkok, December 1994. The story set out in this short chapter provides a hypothetical example of how business enterprises might be systematically incubated in a developing country to provide substantial numbers of jobs and income in a community. As my friend Frank Adams said, this story was the most useful part of the guide, to give the readers an idea of just what might be accomplished using the group entrepreneurship approach.
  15. “Using group entrepreneurship to create new enterprises,” Small Enterprise Development: An International Journal, March 1996. This article, which was an expanded version of a paper that I had presented at an earlier academic conference held at Cambridge University, outlined my vision of how worker cooperatives could be used for job and enterprise creating purposes.
  16. Steps to Starting a Worker Co-op. A short guide that I wrote with E. Kim Coontz, UC Davis, and Audrey Malan, Northwest Cooperative Federation, in 1997.
  17. “The contribution of Helen Foster Snow to the promotion and use of group entrepreneurship and worker cooperatives for job creation, income generation and economic renewal,” Paper presented at the Helen Foster Snow Symposium, held at BYU, October 26-28, 2000. After USU decided not to keep the Helen Foster Snow collection, and gave it to BYU, they used the collection and this symposium to promote their relationship with the Chinese Government. This item is a paper that I gave at their inaugural Symposium held in her honor.
  18. JUMP: Jobs for Unemployed and Marginalized People through self-help (Interregional programme to create decent jobs for women and men in developing and transition countries).”  Geneva: International Labour Organisation, Multi-bilaterial programme of Technical Cooperation, Programme Document, Final Version, June 29, 2001. The JUMP program document was written at the request of the ILO COOP Branch. It was intended to help obtain funding for a major project to create a significant number of jobs for unemployed and marginalized workers using worker cooperatives. The JUMP approach to creating jobs outlined in the project document was designed to pilot test these innovative cooperative and self-help approaches in 9 countries in three ILO Regions. Unfortunately, although we (Jurgen Swettmann, Huseyin Polat and I) thought it was a great idea and a well thought out proposal, it was not funded.
  19. “Organizing Cooperative Businesses to Create Jobs,” Chapter 6 in Part II of A Guide to Local Economic Development, Part 1: Participant Workbook. 1st edition, 293 pages, published by WSI for USAID/USDOL, August 2003.  Part II: Resource Handbook. 1st edition, 273 pages, published by WSI for USAID/USDOL, August 2003.
  20. “Promoting worker cooperatives and employee ownership to create and save jobs.” Chapter 4 in “Adventures of a Million Miler: Four Decades of Professional Work in and out of Academia,”(The memoir of Gary B. Hansen, July 2009 (in progress)
  21. “A Selection of Publications, Papers and Speeches by Gary B. Hansen on Cooperatives and other forms of Employee Ownership, 1964-2009.”
  22. Seymour Specialty Wire. A labor management cooperation brief published by the U.S. Department of Labor, September 1987. This is a buyout of an existing enterprise by the workers in Seymour, CT, to save their jobs.
  23. "Using Cooperative Entrepreneurship for Job and Enterprise Creation in Developing Countries in Eastern Europe." I wrote this paper because I was working in Central and Eastern Europe and other parts of the world that had serious unemployment problems. There was a need for new and innovative approaches to create jobs, so I wrote this paper to address these issues using cooperative forms of entrepreneurship. I gave this paper at a conference on internationalizing entrepreneurship education, training, and research at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, July 1-5, 1991.