The writer looks at a network of worker-owned businesses in Cleveland called Evergreen Cooperatives, which has created environmentally sustainable jobs in low-income neighborhoods and a work environment that gives workers real input into company decisions and a share of the profits:
“While about 11,000 U.S. companies offer some form of employee stock ownership, far fewer give workers real input into decisions. OCS operated on a one-worker/one-vote model, for everyone from the CEO to the newest hire. They all gathered at 7:30 on Monday mornings to discuss company business. ‘It’s like we’re part of the board,’ Bey told me. ‘We don’t look at Steve as a superior. He’s equivalent to us.’ And Kiel was paid accordingly, at least compared with the average American CEO, who makes 300 times more than the average employee at his firm. OCS’s bylaws, Kiel told me, stipulated that the highest-paid member of the cooperative could never be paid more than five times the earnings of the lowest-paid member.
“After a six-month apprenticeship period, OCS employees could apply to join the broader Evergreen Cooperatives. If voted in, they received a $3 per hour raise and began buying into the company through a payroll deduction of 50 cents per hour. In about three years, this would add up to $3,000, an ownership stake that, based on the co-op’s projections, could be worth $65,000 in another six years. (Median household income in the neighborhood is $18,000.) Still, Bey told me, ‘Being an owner is nice, but it isn’t the most important thing. We’re a team, and for a team to win, it has to be profitable. So everybody has to do the best they can to help the team. That’s what makes it work.’”