Worker-led models, touted as a counter force to tech monopolies like Amazon, have been slowly moving from the pages of publications like Co-op News to the mainstream press, a process which took another big step in recent weeks with the revelations about the corporate behaviour of Uber, making this a timely book.
But even worker co-ops face questions around equality, ownership, power and identity, says Meyers, an associate professor at California Polytechnic State University. She looks at how they play out in two lengthy, intensive case studies of North Californian worker co-ops – People’s Daily Bread Bakery and One World Natural Grocery – prompted by a conference clash between members of the two organisations over class and management.
Herbert Gubbins, CEO of the bakery, favoured a formal business structure over participative self-management because his team are “working-class people who want to come in, do their job, and get home to their families. They don’t want to sit through endless meetings.”
But Jan Bridges, from the grocery, responded by telling Meyers: “All kinds of working class people run their own businesses every day.”
Meyers, struck by “two strikingly different views of what workers want, decided to investigate further, and has compiled a fascinating comparative study of the two co-ops, with frank testimony revealed through interviews and minutes from meetings.