Eliminate Bosses Everywhere
May 29, 2018 10:05 AM   Subscribe

“for the restaurant industry in particular — famous for its long hours and low wages — co-ops promise better working conditions in general. “When the workers own the business, they tend to pay themselves a decent wage,” Hoover says. “They almost, across the board, [have] better benefits.” Workers also tend to build more on-the-job skills, because as owners, they’re cross-trained for a variety of roles within the business. That generally means a lower rate of employee turnover, a perennial issue in the restaurant industry. “There’s really strong data that [says] employees stay longer in worker co-ops and experience higher job satisfaction,” Hoover says.“ Want Better Working Conditions in Restaurants? Build a Co-op. (Eater) How to invest in Co-Ops. Democracy @ Work, a site for worker cooperative news, history, and discussion.
posted by The Whelk (20 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
The Hoito in Thunder Bay has been cooperatively run for the past hundred years. When I visited there were lines out the door, but the pancakes were worth the wait.
posted by afiler at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the more work I do on labor organizing, the more I realize that many, many bosses are just flagrantly violating labor laws because they ultimately pay no costs for it. If nothing else, co-ops probably don’t, and that’s a huge step up.
posted by corb at 11:44 AM on May 29, 2018 [14 favorites]

Saved the links to read on my train commute later. But the pull quote reminds me of this segment recently watched from a Dutch documentary. They take a look at a cleaning cooperative, how it was created and how the workers are doing. (English plus other language subtitles in the settings.) It really just makes all the sense to me that this is how companies should be run.
posted by antinomia at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2018

I was asked to support a food coop in the under-served downtown region of my city. Is that a good idea? I've never understood food co-ops, especially because I don't live close enough to shop at one. Would it be a good idea to support it?
posted by rebent at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

For those in NYC looking to support a coop and in need of a cleaner, btw, I found my cleaner through the Si Se Puede women's cooperative here. Here's a link to the (glowing) yelp reviews. My experience matches what others are saying.
posted by antinomia at 12:58 PM on May 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

The organization of Blue Scorcher, the restaurant mentioned in the first link, looks pretty similar to a conventional board of executives overseeing an operational unit (the gereneral circle). The only difference is that the board members are also employees and have a connection with the operational side.

In summary, the secret ingredient is love.
posted by cardboard at 1:00 PM on May 29, 2018

UK Labour favors coops, and other alternative organizational models, in a recent paper. It actually points to umbrella organizations, along the lines of the "how to invest in coops" link in the OP, as an essential guarantor of coop longevity.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2018

Also you may want to take a look at the Securities and Exchange Commission's introduction to investment clubs.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 1:22 PM on May 29, 2018

rebent, are you concerned about gentrification/displacement? That would be my main concern.

Otherwise in my experience they're just grocery stores with slightly better food, slightly more bulk food and local food, and slightly more drama behind the scenes.
posted by aniola at 3:20 PM on May 29, 2018

Food coops are generally member-owned, rather than employee-owned. Still better than faceless-billionaire owned.
posted by rockindata at 3:26 PM on May 29, 2018

Can we use this thread to celebrate our favourite worker owned restaurants? Even if not here's mine: Red Rabbit in Stratford, Ontario! Nthng Hoito!
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:32 PM on May 29, 2018

Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis! Too punk to have a website. Open late, used to go there when I was fifteen.
posted by mai at 5:24 PM on May 29, 2018

Del Rio bar in Ann Arbor
posted by mabelstreet at 5:59 PM on May 29, 2018

Otherwise in my experience they're just grocery stores with slightly better food, slightly more bulk food and local food, and slightly more drama behind the scenes.

My understanding is that they usually come with better employee pay and benefits, too.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2018

I'm the baker from Arizmendi pictured in the Eater article. I'm not sure why they chose a photo from 2003, here's a more recent one showing many of the 150 workers in the association. I work now for the Democracy at Work Institute, the non-profit sister organization of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Very cool to learn about the Hoito, it is news to me.

One trend in the U.S. worker cooperative movement that has traction right now is the sale of business to their workers as an exit or succession plan (see Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Next City, Forbes). We've got a library of short videos and stories of companies that have made this transition, including - to join in the food theme - Rock City Roasters in Rockland, ME, and A Slice of New York Pizza, in San Jose, CA. There is a clear argument that this can be win-win-win for the seller, the buyers, and the community. If you know of a business owner nearing retirement with no succession plan, and you think they might be open to worker- or employee-ownership, send them this toolkit and let them know it is a real option.
posted by mrfno at 8:19 PM on May 29, 2018 [19 favorites]

My advice for co-ops is that if you're already working somewhere that isn't one, under the right circumstances, you and your fellow workers can just come to work and decide it is one. These circumstances are hard to achieve, but we can work towards them.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

For the last 45 years I've been banking with what was initially set up as a credit union (my late father having been a founding member) and is now, after many years and many mergers, trading as a customer-owned bank.

In all those years I have never been given cause to swear at my bank. This is a vanishingly rare experience for Australians.

Co-ops are good. Co-ops work.
posted by flabdablet at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

For restaurant readers, I also want to recommend two books that tell the story of the employees of the World Trade Center's Windows on the World organized a worker-owned restaurant in New York City. The launch had it ups and downs, and if I understand correctly is now buoyed financially by a double life as a training center. The inside story of how the workers tried to both advocate for industry-wide change, and run a business at the same time, is pretty interesting.
- The Accidental American, Sen & Mamdouh
- Behind the Kitchen Door, Jayaraman
posted by mrfno at 7:48 AM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Del Rio bar in Ann Arbor

Closed, some years ago.

posted by elizilla at 9:20 AM on May 30, 2018

I live in one of those hippie towns where everything is some kind of coop - the neighborhood grocery with expensive tofu stuff, the warehouse grocery that feels like death, my bank, my HMO. So I am generally well disposed toward them just from familiarity if nothing else.

However, this bit from the link on how to invest in coops gave me pause:

Members meet in person a minimum of 4 times per year, ideally in a social setting (think microbrewery!) and the clubs operate in a cooperative, democratic manner.

This sounds like a recipe for uneven participation. Where was it I read recently that in movements like Occupy, it turns out that people from privileged demographics consume a disproportionate share of air time? Maybe Zeynep Tufecki’s book on Twitter? Microbreweries are fun and stuff but they seem like a shitty place to have business meetings if you are hard of hearing, or have mobility limitations, or are a young woman. Everything about that setting gives implicit power to the bro set. Give me a bland board room for meetings any day. Or a scuffed up neighborhood center, that works too, as long as it has a ramp and doesn’t have a live band rocking 110 dB.
posted by eirias at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

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