Hello! I would like to update the Japanese version of worker cooperative (労働者協同組合)
In doing so, I wonder, if anyone has a good, universal definition of ‘worker cooperative’, not a legalistic one but something that purely captures only the essential components of the definition. Would someone please recommend something?
A cooperative is a voluntary association that has the aim of satisfying the member’s economic needs and where the benefits obtained from it’s activities are distributed among every member of the association and not appropriated by a minority of the group.
Hi Jorge! So I think that is for ‘cooperative’. I wonder if there is one for ‘worker cooperative’, although in my mind, that is basically a cooperative with an overarching focus on one-person-one-vote.
However, if I just scan through the Internet casually, I get details that, to me, too specific and depends on person or the organization describing it.
I also remember reading different definitions of worker coops and most of them underline either the shared ownership or the cooperative principles. For me a a good definition of any organization should include what distinguishes it from other organizations in how it is composed and the activities it performs, regardless of any normative concerns. That’s why I was thinking that the main activity of a coop is it’s economic activity (pretty obvious ), but what it distinguishes it from other economic organizations is that it purportedly distributes the benefits more evenly (which is not that strict because how evenly it gets distributed could vary as it’s not a property that is either absolute or absent ).
Anyways, I think that a definition of worker coops should include the above and also add self-management from the worker-owners as the other defining activity. It seems to me that there are no other economic organizations that are managed by the worker themselves and this includes the principle of one-person-one-vote but also other democratic and participatory processes, as well as who directs the organization and how it pursues it’s goals.
Yes, worker’s self-management is definitely an important feature but I think that does not convey the sense that the workers have exclusive, equally distributed rights to make most fundamental decisions, especially those that are typically reserved for shareholders and their appointees in private capitalist corporations. For example, decisions regarding layoffs (hopefully workers won’t do these to themselves ) , which markets to get into, what investments to make, etc.
I wonder if there is a wording better than workers’ self-management
Speaking for myself, I would center the 7 Cooperative Principles. In this case, a worker cooperative is one where the employees are the primary, if not only, class of membership.
#2 – Democratic Member Control
Members control their business by deciding how it’s run and who leads it.
#4 – Autonomy & Independence
When making business deals or raising money, co-ops never compromise their autonomy or democratic member control.
In the case of a worker cooperative, the members are predominantly the workers.
I wouldn’t dwell on this notion. Equality is expressly not in the 7 principles. In worker cooperatives there may be significant difference in salary among staff depending upon responsibilities, skills, tenure, or what ever criteria the organization’s members agree. Moreover, with modern cooperatives, when there is significant risk taken by capital investment, a member’s intuition of “more evenly” may differ significantly from the agreement reached between members and capital investors.
Thank you for your replies! Using the 7 the principles where primary members are the workers as the definition for worker cooperatives and making references to ‘workplace democracy’ make sense!
Do you think that in existing (non-worker) cooperatives (such as consumer coops) there is not enough workplace democracy? I am assuming that managers are appointed by the board of consumer coops and the workers and then hired by such managers?
I wonder if the concept of ‘worker cooperatives’ come as a response to the critique of existing cooperatives, not just capitalist organizations.