If the Erreka Group operated like most businesses, the pandemic would have delivered a traumatic blow to its workers.
Based in the rugged Basque region of Spain, the company produces a variety of goods, including sliding doors, plastic parts used in cars and medical devices sold around the world. As the coronavirus ravaged Europe in late March, the Spanish government ordered the company to shut two of its three local factories, threatening the livelihoods of the 210 workers there.
But the Erreka Group averted layoffs by temporarily trimming wages by 5 percent. It continued to pay workers stuck at home in exchange for the promise that they would make up some of their hours when better days returned.
This flexible approach was possible because the company is part of a vast collection of cooperative enterprises, centered in the town of Mondragón. Most of its workers are partners, meaning they own the company.