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Re: [tlug] Introduction to (Tech) Worker Cooperatives, 09:00AM on Sunday, July 12th JST

On Sun, 19 Jul 2020 at 03:00, Stephen J. Turnbull <> wrote:
Yasuaki Kudo writes:

 > ➢ Not true in worker cooperatives.  Customers and society at large are
 >        excluded from decision-making.
 > This part is probably not true, based on my numerous encounters
 > with actual worker cooperators.   The reason is, the
 > community-focus, fair trade, fair use, etc., are usually at the
 > heart of their “competitiveness” compared to capitalist rivals.
 > That’s their main selling point.   So, many of them actually
 > create, formally or informally, a broader coalition of
 > “multi-stakeholder” business model.

That may be their business model, but of course for-profit companies
try to keep their customers satisfied too!  There are many capitalist
firms whose business models are based in multiple kinds of
stakeholder.  In the US, IBM was an example in the late 1960s and
1970s -- they were very good to their workers (all of them, not just
the execs) and the communities they drew the workers from.  Unions
never got traction.  IBM was rarely sued by their customers, but
frequently by their rivals and the government.

In the banking industry (as well as in many other industries) there has
been much consolidation and that has led to worse and worse service
for locals especially in smaller towns or villages.

In many rural areas, the cooperative banks are the only banks,
while the capitalist banks keep closing branches.

Also consider that cooperative banks fund cooperative businesses
because they understand the business model while your run-off-the-mill
capitalist bank might find a cooperative business too perplexing to be
able to assess the risk and reject loan applications.

Also consider the following scenarios:

Scenario A:

Small town, connected to the railway network though, a business
property rental has come on the market across the train station.

Fred, a local, wants to start a cafe there, has some funding, but
still needs a bank loan, puts in application to local branch of
capitalist bank. The local branch doesn't deal with loan applications,
those have been rationalised away to the next big city 80 km away.
The people there have no clue what the local situation is, nor do
they know Fred and his backers.

Starbucks is a large customer of this capitalist bank. They are also
interested in opening a branch in that same property.

Guess who will be getting the loan and support and who won't.

Scenario B:

Same as A, but in this variant, Fred and his backers go to the 
local cooperative bank. The local coop handle and decide their
loan applications directly. They know all the locals. They also
know the owner of the building. In fact, more likely than not,
the owner of the building will be a member of the local
cooperative bank.

Guess, who will be getting the loan and the contract for the
property in this scenario?

This is the primary competitive advantage of most cooperative
banks in Europe. Being close to the customer.

Meanwhile, capitalist behemoths keep closing branches.

More to the point, consumers and neighbors don't have a vote in
cooperative decisions in your experience, do they?

In my experience, in Germany they do if they want to.

There are many people who become members in a local
cooperative bank not for investment but simply to be able to
get involved in the decision making and vote in the shareholder

Likewise, there are many people who become members in a
local housing cooperative not because they are looking for
accommodation, but because they want to support it and
participate in decision making and vote in the shareholder

Of course, few people do that for coops that are less influential
like say a taxi cooperative or a cooperative supermarket. But
they could if they wanted to.

That is, they
depend on the goodwill of the workers to have consumer interests

Or they get involved.

There is a thing called the Rochdale Principles. They date back to
the 1840s and are widely accepted cooperative principles worldwide.

Number one on the list is open and voluntary membership, which means
that anybody can join a cooperative if they want to. Democratic control
and some form of profit cap are also on that list.

In countries where cooperatives are a legal form, the law typically
requires at least a subset of these principles to be implemented,
and open membership is usually amongst the mandatory ones.

If I remember and understand correctly, in the German
"co-determination" model business corporations must have a certain
fraction of labor representatives on their boards, and maybe community
and/or government representatives (the "golden share" IIRC, but that
may be France and a different concept).

It is called Betriebsrat, or in English worker's council.

It is the law in Austria and Germany that any business
with a certain number of employees must establish such a
council and the council gets to take part in the decision making
of the company's board, and the council must approve any lay-offs.

Without approval from the worker's council you cannot fire anybody
unless for criminal conduct, like stealing from the company etc.

In Germany, employees can demand a worker's council if there are at
least five full-time employees who have been employed for at least
six months and the company may not refuse establishment; but any
business with more than 49 (IIRC) employees is obliged to establish
a worker's council. The same principles apply in Austria but the
numbers may be different there. France has a similar thing called
délégués du personnel.

However, this applies to all businesses, it should not be confused
with the mandatory governance model for incorporated cooperatives
that I had mentioned.

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