Spanish co-op might point the way forward for workers in America | MSNBC

by Ned Resnikoff

Believe it or not, worker-owned businesses are on the rise in the United States. In a time of high unemployment and low wages, majority-worker owned companies and cooperatives have been quietly growing across the country.

The Guardian’s Moira Herbst offers up a few prominent examples: a Minnesota grocery chain proprietor who left the business to his 400 employees. Red Mill Natural Foods in Oregon, which is now owned by its 209 workers. And then there’s Publix Super Markets, based in Florida. That chain, writes Herbst, employs “more workers than Costco and Whole Foods combined.”

Worker-owned businesses like these exemplify economic democracy: Because workers have joint ownership of the company, they all have a say in how it’s managed. All of them have the power to resist management exploitation, vote on their own labor conditions, and manage their own wages and benefits. Because the workers have a vested interest in keeping their jobs, they’re unlikely to make decisions they know will hurt the company’s sustainability.
As Herbst writes: “Because stock does not trade publicly, the business is insulated from the pressures of the stock market and its obsession with short-term profit. Instead, the worker-owners can focus on long-term growth, sustainability, and fairness.”

At least one of the organizations working to promote worker ownership is taking its cues from across the Atlantic: In 2009, the United Steelworkers union partnered with Spanish cooperative Mondragon Internacional to open new co-ops in America.

Read the full article from MSNBC’s The Ed Show.

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