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Workers' Cooperatives

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posted on Sep, 6 2007 @ 08:01 AM
A workers cooperative is a company where everyone who works there is an equal shareholder. You have to stop and think for a moment what that means!

Setting up a workers cooperative might seem hard if you're unskilled and already working for a big employer, but it doesn't mean you can't do it. Firstly: there's no such thing as "unskilled"; this is simply a conformist label. Everyone is an expert at whatever they do even if they've not needed formal qualifications to do it. You also don't have to take a jump into the dark. In the unstable economy we live in, opportunities can come along easily. Get together with your colleagues and form a provisional workers' cooperative while you're still in your current job then if your employer suffers bankruptcy or shutdown you can buy some of its assets with your redundancy payout and continue on your own, bringing your workers’ cooperative to life. Nobody is more qualified to do the job you're doing so you have all the expertise and training you need! For instance if you work at Tesco's and head office decide to close your store; normally they'd lay you all off and sell the site to a developer. Instead, you get together and buy the store and start it off again as your own business. If you work in public services, like me, you could get a provisional coop ready in case the government put your service out to tender for private contractors, which they're doing a lot these days.

As a coop member you'll have a share in the company's profits rather than a salary. This might sound less secure, but on the plus side you're master of your own destiny because you don't just "work here" and "do you job", you have a say in the running of the place. You'll elect a board and management or supervisor’s positions. You can get your share paid to you in weekly or monthly installments like a wage and because there's no fat cat at the top taking it all you'll be a lot better off! If you get elected to management or work extra long hours you'll deserve a bit extra so some of the capital can be kept aside for bonuses; this will replace the manager's salary and overtime you get from regular hierarchical corporations.

Keeping some of the capital aside sounds a bit ominous, but it isn't because at the end of the financial year, any money left over in the bonus pool can be given out to the members as a capital dividend. In the future there may even be a ritual public holiday on the 31st of March: "Capital Dividend Day"!

The current economic system mean work for most people is drudgery. It's boring, unfulfilling and humiliating. The world economy is going to fall and many businesses will go bust. We can do one of two things: Sit around waiting for it to go bust and fall into the gutter with it or take control of the global economy ourselves. Together with our own local currencies (which I'm sure you're familiar with) there's no reason why economic collapse should be feared; it should even be welcomed! It's only a problem when we're attached to its apron-strings.

posted on Sep, 6 2007 @ 01:06 PM
From a survival perspective, I don't think this has much use for the survival forum.... if it was more about a survival commune where people equally buy into land and establish their own farm and all work together to feed each other and have a profit-sharing system, that could be a bit more reasonable.

From your Tesco example... they have nearly 300,000 employees and annual revenues are currently over "£42,000 million" according to Wikipedia (I live in Canada so I've never heard of them.) With numbers like that, there is nearly no chance they will ever randomly go bankrupt. If they decide to sell, it will be to another larger company, in which case you will just be working for the new company.

Even if everyone in your store/branch of the company pools their money together, I doubt they are going to be able to even afford the property of the business, even at liquidation prices. I currently work at a grocery store as well, while attending college. I've saved nearly every penny I've earned in the past 3 years I've worked there, since I live at home and I don't have to pay for rent/food, etc. and I honestly believe that I have probably saved up more money than most people who have worked there for 15-20 years have saved for retirement. My point being that people who work for minimum wage likely don't have the financial freedom to save money to buy a corporation someday... most of them are living paycheque to paycheque and will rely on government pension. Perhaps the managers could save for such a thing, but not any of the peons.

Another problem arises with the idea of having so many owners. A business running with 20 bosses per building seems unthinkable... imagine having hundreds. In psuedo-cooperatives like WestJet ("We care because we're Westjet owners too) it can work, but not in full-scale. Your business would be even more inefficient than the UN if every single owner's vote had to be counted to make descisions. And since there are bound to be disagreements with so many people in charge, there is always going to be people just as disillusioned and unfulfilled as in their ordinary job. Then since some people are bound to invest more into the co-operative at inception, then are the people who put in the most money higher up the ladder than people who contribute less? Do they get more votes? It would be quite a daunting task to keep track of all the percentages.

You also can't really give out weekly or monthly shares to everyone, since you don't know what the net income at the end of the year will be. If you give out more money than you make, your business is suddenly in debt. You could carefully calculate an allowance that you pay out, and then give out any extra at the end of the year... but then if some people recieved too much, they would end up either paying the company back the excess or not getting paid for a few weeks.

Not sure about the UK, but since you are business owners and not employees, you will likely not be entitled to your equivalent of what we have here... EI (Employment Insurance), CPP (Canada Pension Plan), and you will have to set up a new form of health/dental plan for everyone.

What happens when you need new employees? Do they have to buy a share of the company to work for you, or will you start taking on true "employees" again at an hourly wage and start the cycle over?

Lastly, why would you want to buy a business that just shut it's doors? There is likely an economic reason why they did so...

It is a much better idea to get some people together and start small, with your own brand new business. Then you have a chance at making it work.

[edit on 9/6/2007 by Yarcofin]


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