A Worker-Owned Cooperative
Alternative has always been an exceptional place to work. It was founded to be a company that nonprofits could trust, and has grown steadily over three decades, attracting a talented and diverse staff providing IT, cloud, telecom and cabling infrastructure services to Bay Area nonprofits and local businesses.
Staff have long shared a voice in management, advocating for the best interests of our customers. From the start we have shared the “think globally, act locally” values that we find in our customers. As the company transitions into our fourth decade, the decision to become a worker-owned cooperative felt consistent with our values.
The Back Story
From our beginning in 1989, Alternative Technologies has become a respected and stable part of the nonprofit and small business community in the Bay Area and beyond. Around our 2019 30th anniversary, founder and owner Jerry Skomer announced he would retire within two years. He and others at Alternative were intrigued by the idea of a worker-owned cooperative.
We reached out to Project Equity, a nonprofit that works with small businesses around the country to promote worker-ownership as a succession plan to retiring business owners. We learned about how worker-ownership preserves the jobs that local small businesses provide, which in turn helps the families that depend on those jobs, and supports the communities served by those businesses. In early 2020 we began a two-year long process of financial analysis, management preparation and staff education. We secured a loan from Shared Capital Co-op to enable the company to buy out Jerry’s ownership, and completed the sale in March 2022.
What it means to us, and to you
In becoming a worker-owned cooperative, we operate much the same as in recent years. Our new structure allows for a smooth continuation of service for our community customers. Crucially, the workers – many of whom have been working alongside Jerry for 20 years or more – keep their jobs and become part owners of the company that they helped build.
For company founder Jerry Skomer, the decision to become a worker-owned cooperative felt like a natural next step. Not only is it the right decision for Jerry and his empowered team, but it is also the right step for the times.
Becoming a worker-owned cooperative allows Alternative Technologies to continue to forge its own unique identity in a world where wealth disparities and corporate personhood have skewed and warped the daily lives of so many. As a worker-owned cooperative, we can continue to use our technical skills and experience to do the daily honest work of keeping nonprofits and small businesses effective and connected.
- US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
- California Center for Cooperative Development
- Project Equity
- Sustainable Economies Law Center
Information on Worker-Owned Cooperatives
- Legal Guides for Worker Cooperatives
- The Case for Employee Ownership
- California Cooperatives
- More resources