The newest incarnation of worker cooperatives are worker self-directed enterprises (WSDE). WSDEs combine aspects of capitalism and socialism, resulting in an improved version of a centuries-old idea. Not only do the workers decide together when and how much to produce, but they themselves choose, via a democratic process, how to use the enterprise’s net revenue. Suddenly, government agencies dependent upon enterprise tax payments become dependent not upon the CEOs, but on the workers themselves.
(Photo Credit: 4lexandre/Flickr)
The problems with unregulated capitalism is that greed leads those with opportunity to hoard wealth and leave the rest of society behind. Money = power, and those at the top have influence over representatives in the government. The needs of the worker are left behind in the dust.
As Richard D. Wolffe eloquently explains in his op-ed in Truthout, socialist alternatives often fail to inspire due to their lack of democratic process. Too much government intervention is swinging the pendulum too far the other direction, and the needs of the worker may or may not be met. The worker may rightly feel powerless to change his situation.
Worker Self-Directed Enterprise
WSDEs attempt to empower the worker. They do away with the hierarchy inherent in capitalist ventures with their shareholders at the top. One complaint about worker co-ops, however, is that once they become large, making all decisions based upon consensus becomes burdensom and untenable; the co-ops sometimes seem to morph into hierarchys with a few at the top making decisions for the group.
Workers belonging to WSDEs democratically elect a board of directors; historically, this is a new idea in American enterprise. Of course, these elections happen on a periodic basis and if the board displeases the workers, they may be voted out. The workers and the board decide when, where, and how much the business will produce. The workers maintain control of the business.
The beauty of it is that governments at all levels (municipal, state, federal) become dependent upon the people as workers for enterprise tax payments and any and all other distributions of revenues. In capitalism, an interest separate from the workers (the shareholders) makes decisions about what to do with enterprise net revenues. And those decisions often fo against the best interest of the workers and their families. In WSDEs, the workers also have the voice.
Empowerment leads to economic prosperity for all.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you ever participated in a worker co-op or WSDE? We want to hear about your experience! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.