Skip to main content

Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Worker Cooperative Replication: Editor's Introduction to Issue 2, Volume 3

Article type
May 28, 2009
Body paragraph

The theme of this issue is worker cooperative replication. It addresses an issue which is central to the growth of the democratic worker cooperative movement. How do we reproduce the success stories we have already achieved? That is, how do we replicate successful worker cooperatives in different locations? Inherent in the challenge of replication is a long standing conundrum of worker cooperative development. Replication is analogous to "franchising" in a capitalist company. Capitalist companies have a compelling motive to replicate successful stores - maximizing profit. What motive does a successful worker cooperatives have for replicating itself? Can cooperative activists harness the power of solidarity to be as dynamic a force for growth of the democratic economy as profit is for the capitalist economy?

In this GEO issue we have four articles that describe specific examples of worker cooperative replication.  Joe Marraffino describes the structure and process of the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, an association of worker cooperative bakeries in the Bay Area of California. He traces the history of Arizmendi and then describes the step-by-step process of creating a new bakery. Joel Schoening tells the story of Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES) based on his interview WAGES director, Hilary Abell. WAGES is a non-profit organization, also in the California Bay Area. WAGES was started by a group of social service providers who saw the need to develop quality jobs in their community. WAGES has gone on to start four eco-friendly housecleaning worker cooperatives. Based upon an interview with Free Geek founder, Richard Seymour, Jim Johnson tells the story of Free Geek. Free Geek is a democratically organized non-profit in Portland, Oregon that refurbishes computers for the community and ethically recycles non-reusable computer components. There are now nine organizations that have replicated Free Geek's business model. Last, Innosanto Nagara describes the history of Design Action Collective. Design Action Collective provides graphic design and visual communications services to activist, social change and other progressive organizations. Their story is unique in that they started as a "spinoff" of the graphic design department of Inkworks Press, an offset printshop worker cooperative in Berkeley, California.

Interested readers may also want to refer to Jim Johnson's article on home care cooperative development in GEO issue volume 2 issue 1 entitled "Co-ops Unite to Support Worker-Ownership in Home Care" and Margaret Bau's "Building on Lessons Learned" web page on cooperative development. For a very useful a collection of working documents from worker cooperatives, democratic workplaces, cooperative developers and worker co-op federations from around the country, visit the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives' document library.

Also, in this issue Lisa Stolarski reviews "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA This question is to verify that you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam.

What does the G in GEO stand for?