Worker-owned businesses are relatively new practice. For example, most podcasts and podcast networks are owned by their hosts, and that’s a great thing. As well as indy software publishing houses. I think it works great in this new digital job field where the company size is small.
Interestingly, my beloved John Lewis and Waitrose are also a co-op. The company became successful in the traditional capitalist model and then transitioned into the co-op. The company is in trouble now, and the co-op nature is likely the negative factor.
And yet very few worker-owned companies have succeeded in the long term. We saw that with the experiments in industrial democracy in this country in the 1970s, when the likes of the Meriden motorcycle co-operative were backed with government money and state-supported soft loans, but still eventually collapsed.
We have seen it with the repeated turmoil at the Co-op retail empire (the Co-op is owned by its customers and local societies rather than the staff, but the principle is much the same).
And we have seen it in the failure of countless similar initiatives in most major developed economies. The only really successful worker’s co-op in the world is the Spanish industrial conglomerate Mondragon, but even that has had its fair share of challenges to cope with.
None of the world’s major companies are owned by the workers.
These businesses are very resistant to change. The staff are inevitably very conservative about their own roles and working practices. They don’t want to have to learn new skills and they definitely don’t ever want to be made redundant.