The Importance of Worker-Owned Cannot be Overestimated

At several times in American history, corporate and government interests were aligned with the interests of the people. When they were, corporate workers thrived, with good wages and generous benefits, and corporate profits were good too. All that is gone. Although there are still good corporations that do everything right and thrive, the impersonal cruelty of the times calls for corporate power to ignore their public responsibilities and crush the worker. The environment, and the coming climate change disaster are ignored. The injustice of this amoral greed and disregard for the public good is the stuff of revolution.

We won’t have a bloody revolution, but if we are lucky we will have something that at least helps. We will simply, to the best of our ability, make the corporate demons irrelevant. And how do we do that? The first line of defense—no, no, it’s more like the first line of retreat, if we must use militant terminology—is to remove ourselves from the field of battle, out of reach of the corporate bosses whose allegiance lies totally with the ultra-rich, and who have absolutely no interest in whether we live or die.

Let us reiterate what worker-ownership means. It’s really quite simple. It means just what it sounds like. But the greater significance of the concept is not automatically clear. Read this.

The most important factor is that the entire business is owned by you, the worker in the business, along with all the other workers. There is no boss bringing home millions of dollars a year, and no rich investors demanding immediate profit for the money they put up. Your pay in a worker-owned business may vary depending on the expertise needed for the work you do, but if there is profit to be split, everyone gets the same. It does not go to rich owners; it goes to you, out of the clutches of the ultra-rich.

But worker-owned businesses do more than give the profit to all the workers. They are universally supportive of their community in many different ways. And in everything they do, they are aware of their impact on the worldwide environment. That’s called the “triple bottom line”.

Now, the best big corporations also support their communities and the environment. And their bosses will earn more, but not the ridiculous millions that lesser corporations pay their big guns. The corporations from hell, like Wal-Mart, whose CEO pay is hundreds of times greater than the average worker, which seek to sell products made the most cheaply under inhumane conditions in the Third World, which routinely violate workers’ rights, exist only to fulfill the capitalist imperative: maximize profit, which all goes to the rich corporate owners of the Walton family. The Wal-Mart owners have as much wealth as the bottom 30% of the American population, some 93,600,000 people. Such people live in splendid isolation from the real world.

But your worker-owned business, which could be anything from a bakery to a surveying group to a factory making compressed air machinery, belongs completely to its workers. It might be a supplier to big corporations, but they don’t control it. It is outside the reach of wealth-draining corporate power, in a more benign world. And you own it.

In these times, when the ultra-rich are decimating the wellbeing of all Americans below the top 1% of income, getting out of their greedy grasp, and staying out, is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself and for American democracy. Worker-owned business is the best way to do that.

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