Who Needs a Boss? Addressing the Root of Income Inequality
Economics reporter Shaila Dewan explains how worker cooperatives are one of the few economic models that actually battles income inequality at the root. While there have been various measures proposed to redistribute wealth, from taxing the rich to raising the minimum wage, Richard Wolff, the author of “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" thinks these measures don't go far enough. “If you don’t want inequality, don’t distribute income unequally in the first place,” he argues.
Cooperative enterprises, like Arizmendi Bakery in San Francisco, provide workers with decent livings. Dewan explains that when customers spend money at the bakery, that "money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits." This job security allows cooperative members to lead decent lives in the high-cost Bay Area, largely because "not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag."
As the return on labor is continually squeezed, worker cooperatives help workers earn a decent living. And the research into cooperatives backs up their economic potential — "they are either just as good as regular businesses, or they are more productive, less susceptible to failure, more attentive to quality and less likely to lay off workers in a downturn (though they may be slower to hire when times are good)." Cooperatives are perhaps "slower" than traditional employment structures, but they are less risky and provide more support. And the idea that we should gamble with peoples livelihoods for the sake of faster growth is, at best, amoral.