"Our history has been a struggle alternating between progressive developments leading to improvement in the quality of life for the majority of people, and regressive economic policy leading to the concentration of wealth into the hands of a smaller and smaller cadre; what Paul Simon referred to as “a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires.” In recent times, the pendulum has swung to the right with calamitous results. It is time for us to become engaged in pushing the pendulum in the other direction. It s possible to live in a world that allows us to develop the gifts that each of us is born with and use those gifts in a co-operative way to build a better world for everyone.
Corporate business models seem to be inherently incapable of being responsible to people and to life on earth in a long-term, sustainable way. Based on democracy, co-operation and equality, the worker co-operative is a model that can meet our most pressing needs.
Most workplaces are undemocratic. We are constantly told that democracy in the workplace is inefficient and that workers are not ‘fit’ to make responsible and accountable decisions. Aren’t these the same arguments that were countered against political democracy? Remember when women, Aboriginals, blacks, those without property etc. were deemed unfit for democracy. Workers are deemed the same in the economic sphere. One day this will change, too.
Democracy better ensures that worker co-operatives are responsible to their workers, their customers, their community and to the earth. At a time when many Canadians are searching for more meaningful work, worker cooperatives allow people to live their values at work. Democracy in the workplace builds worker commitment. This is important because now more than ever, the success of an enterprise in a knowledge economy is based on mobilizing the intelligence of its workers. Worker co-operatives are able to do this by providing incentives for workers to be productive, accountable, flexible and innovative.
We are constantly told that competition is the best way to operate an economy and to run a business. However, one of the leading evolutionary biologists, Stephen Jay Gould, disputed this. Gould said that equating competition with success is just a cultural prejudice. He noted that success can be achieved through a number of strategies, including co-operation. Co-operation has been central in many cultures throughout human history.
In particular, many Indigenous cultures around the world are based around the values of co-operation and sharing of resources for the common good. In addition, the cost of competition is enormous; it does not have to be this way. We can do better. By co-operating, we can meet our greatest challenges and reach our potential as human beings. In a worker cooperative, you can do this every day at work.
As a rule, no single person or elite group gets all the profits in a worker cooperative, which leads to greater economic equality. Profits can instead be re-invested into the co-operative to create more jobs, to increase workers' wages, to decrease work hours or to be given to other fledgling cooperatives. To meet the needs of people and life on earth it is imperative that we create democratic, co-operative and equal workplaces."