An ownership society might be one of the important solutions to our economic woes. One important and proactive approach to building a healthier and more sustainable economy is to invest in worker cooperatives, or “co-ops” for short. Co-ops are essentially employee-owned companies where everyone has a say in the affairs of the organization, and no one takes an extraordinary share of the profits. This gives people more ownership and representation over their work.
I came across an article in the L.A. Times, Making the Most of Cooperation. It follows the interest in cooperatives in Richmond, CA, headed by the mayor, Gayle McLaughlin. She was inspired by a visit to Mondragon, Spain, the home of Mondragon Corp., a web of cooperatives that employ 83,000 workers and together represent Spain’s seventh-largest business. An inspiring article for anyone interested in healthy economic alternatives to the status quo.
For me, things like employee ownership represent one possible path to bringing equality without relying on a centralized authority to redistribute wealth. Redistribution of wealth seems to me to be fundamentally counterproductive to empowering people and creating equality. My political position at this point in time is libertarian socialist, which means I believe that freedom and equality go hand in hand. (Most people simply assume that “socialism” means “authoritarian socialism,” of the USSR variety.) Essentially, I believe in self-governing without reference to authoritarian hierarchy, be that within government or corporations.
Here are a few quotes from the article, explaining a bit of the how-to of co-ops and their benefits:
[At Mondragon Corp.] the original edict of one-worker/one vote remains, through an elected general assembly with representatives from each cooperative. Recently, the assembly voted to cut everyone’s pay rather than risk layoffs at any one co-op. The compensation of the highest-paid worker is capped at seven times that of the lowest. Some of the corporation’s overall profits go toward offsetting losses at any individual enterprise. Workers also receive a share in the corporation, based on their contributions, every year, with more money flowing into interest-bearing accounts disbursed at retirement.
In addition to offering the chance to share in profits, worker-owned companies are rooted in the community and won’t “pack up and move,” he said.