Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Systems

First Advisor

Teresa Mares


Food cooperatives play a central role in the local food movement. In addition to supporting the local economy, the cooperative movement lists "concern for the community" among their seven core principles (Healthy Foods Healthy Communities Report, 2012). Food cooperatives, however, are typically consumer-owned and primarily assert democratic control over buying practices rather than workplace operation (University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, 2009). Therefore, unless allocated a separate means for advocacy, cooperative workers often have less autonomy than they would if they were organized and had the means to collectively negotiate their benefits and work environment. This article argues that the efforts of worker-run governance bodies are integral for securing worker citizenship yet are often excluded from the efforts of consumer cooperatives. Using a mixed methods approach that includes focus groups, individual interviews, and textual and policy analyses, this study looks at the impact of unions on the social, political and civil rights of workers in two unionized food cooperatives in Vermont. Specifically, it examines the relationship between cooperative and union governance structures and the role of each institution in generating citizen engagement both in and outside the workplace. In this study, citizenship is defined as access to social, political, and civil rights. Study findings suggest that workers view management and the union as the prime decision-making bodies and the benefits of consumer membership as mainly consumer-oriented and vaguely community-based. Interview data generated with workers and stakeholders indicates that the union plays a pivotal role in promoting citizen engagement and workplace democracy in food cooperatives.



Number of Pages

119 p.