“I’m a worker/owner of Equal Exchange, so I own stock in the co-op – and I’m also an employee,” Pondolph said.
“In some ways, we operate like a typical business, we have a strong management structure, so I have a boss who works on my team.”
There are also vice presidents and founders, but one of the co-op’s core values is democracy, she said.
“We vote on bigger decisions,” she said.
Decisions are made by a two thirds majority of worker-owners.
“Everyone has one vote and one share in Equal Exchange,” she said. “It’s not like the founder of the company has more say in terms of voting and decision making than say someone like myself who has only been at equal exchange for five years. We all have one vote, one share.”
Asked about socialism, she didn’t use the term but said, “I think the values of co-ops and working together and thinking about shared resources – that’s the space I see worker-owned cooperatives and cooperatives in general being strong in, especially now during the pandemic and seeing the amount of wealth that top businesses have been able to make off the pandemic,” she said.
Pondolph said benefits of working for a co-op like Equal Exchange include a living wage, work-life balance and flexibility for scheduling and vacation time.