AlliedUP's Worker-Owned Cooperative Aims to Empower POC Employees

October 04, 2022 3:44 PM EDT | Source: Hyland Media

Ontario, California--(Newsfile Corp. - October 4, 2022) - Demand for healthcare professionals is expected to grow by 16 percent by 2030 - well above average rates. Despite the addition of 2.6 million new jobs, however, the healthcare industry is facing several challenges that could make it hard to fill this demand.

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From an aging allied healthcare population leading to greater retirement rates, to burnout causing many healthcare professionals to quit, the United States faces a very real talent shortage.

In addition to these mounting issues, workforce inequalities persist throughout the industry, directly affecting individuals based on race, gender and sexual orientation at a disproportionate rate. Such challenges can make it harder for minority healthcare workers to stay in the industry - or to have the desire to enter it in the first place.

It is with this backdrop that Carey Carpineta, CEO of AlliedUP, seeks to empower healthcare professionals - in particular, the majority-women and POC employees the industry represents - with a worker cooperative system previously unseen in the industry.

Understanding the Worker-Ownership Model

Worker-owned cooperatives are still a small minority of businesses in the United States. In fact, the Democracy at Work Institute's 2021 "State of the Sector" report estimates that there are only roughly 1,000 worker-owned cooperatives in the country - this, out of six million businesses with multiple employees.

In a worker cooperative, workers have full ownership of the company. They vote on management decisions like establishing wage rates and benefits packages, as well as board member selections, which often come from the worker group.

They have the power to guide the direction of the company and gain access to community support, annual profit dividends and other benefits that aren't available in traditional employment models.

One example of the worker cooperative model in action with AlliedUP is its focus on flexibility for its worker-owners. "Healthcare professionals need flexibility to manage changes in their lives," Carpineta says.

"A worker-owner model makes it easier to ensure that workers can gain access to the type of schedule that best fits their current lifestyle, whether that be full-time, part-time or just picking up a few shifts. The ability to choose what works best for themselves and their families is key to empowering employees to make this often challenging career work for them."

Studies bear out on the potential benefits of employee-ownership for POC employees, particularly in regards to addressing wealth inequality. A study from the nonprofit National Center for Employee Ownership found that employee-owners of color had 30 percent higher income and 79 percent greater net household wealth.

Racial and ethnic minorities have typically experienced higher levels of household stress, in part due to financial issues. This is particularly true during high inflation periods. "When healthcare industry workers receive wages at a level that helps relieve that financial stress, as well as profit sharing and full benefits, it changes everything," Carpineta says.

"They can use that money to reinvest into their family's future and their communities. They don't have to worry about working two jobs anymore. They can afford programs to build their career and skills. The potential outcomes are truly life-changing."

Fostering Inclusivity and Equity

For Carpineta and her team, the inequities in the healthcare system were a chief concern in developing a worker-ownership model that prioritized POC workers from the start.

"In some states, up to 76 percent of all workers are women of color. But so often, these same workers don't have a real voice or an opportunity to build lasting dividends for their future. This doesn't just hurt the workers - it also hurts hospital systems as the number of healthcare graduates declines due to these perceived inequities."

Lagging diversity among healthcare workers can have detrimental outcomes for patients - but the reverse is also true. A report from the Health Professionals for Diversity Coalition notes that POC physicians are more likely to work in underserved communities. At the same time, minority patients are generally more satisfied and feel they receive higher-quality care from professionals who share their racial background.

Empowering POC healthcare employees becomes crucial for ensuring that diverse groups are represented in the industry in proportion with their share of the population. An inclusive model better supports growing industry demand while placing all healthcare employees on even footing.

As Carpineta explains, "Union-backed cooperatives help healthcare professionals at all levels - including new graduates - with the connections, access and tools they need to succeed in their current role and grow into new roles. Their career doesn't have to become a source of stress. It can be a way for them to lift their community and truly invest in their future."

Benefitting More Than Workers

This system subsequently benefits the healthcare providers who partner with such worker-owned companies. When healthcare workers have opportunities for professional advancement, access to desired resources and support and aren't kept out of the structure of power, they become more likely to be satisfied at their job. This in turn increases retention rates, allowing healthcare providers to maintain a consistent quality of care.

"At the end of the day, empowering POC healthcare employees benefits everyone," Carpineta says. "When they have the resources they need to thrive in their careers, providers and patients reap the rewards as well. Inclusivity and equity ultimately create a scenario where everyone comes out a winner."

Media Contact:
AlliedUP Cooperative Inc.
Ontario, Calif., USA

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