Work Team

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Some Cooperatives break down their overall larger structure into “Work Teams” (a form of Worker self-management). These teams' purpose is to divide the business up amongst sections of operation. For instance, a large worker coop grocery store might be divided into some of the following teams: cashiers, meat-packers, and etc. These are somewhat autonomous teams within the cooperative as a whole. They work towards their own goals, make their own decisions, and sometimes even do their own hiring and firing process.

Examples of Work Teams

As No Bosses Here, by Vocations for Social Changes, explains:

Often collectives will set up more permanent small work groups that are responsible for overseeing a specific program or area of work. In some collectives, the bulk of the work is carried out by these small groups. Women’s Community Health has groups – among others – that deal with the clinic, with the books, and with self-help groups. [Vocations for Social Change] has groups responsible for one-to-one counseling, the unemployment law project, and the workplace change information project. These groups coordinate the work of the project and make the minor decisions that have to be made in a major program. Any major decisions are brought before the whole collective. At this time suggestions, support, and criticism are offered. Disagreements are worked through in the collective as a whole. A community advocacy group in Cambridge has work groups that are somewhat independent. Each group does its own hiring within overall collective guidelines… The workers’ council, made up of representatives of each work group, sets salaries and deals with overall policy issues. This group finds that their various programs are so different and their staff so large, that they have to make decisions somewhat independently. This suggests how even larger collective workplaces might be structured… [1]

This way, larger cooperatives do not have to be bogged down as a whole in the decision making process for specific issues. In addition, this allows for a level of autonomy for members who are working within their own areas, and allows for efficient self-management while maintaining workplace democracy.

Dollars and Sense, the magazine of economic justice, discussed the specifics of one recently started worker cooperative:

In the fall of 2005, COLORS restaurant opened in the heart of Greenwich Village, in New York City… More than an excellent restaurant, however, COLORS is one part of a labor struggle to revolutionize the New York restaurant industry… The restaurant is a democratic worker cooperative, founded by former workers of the Windows on the World restaurant… New York's famed restaurant industry is built on exploited immigrant labor… COLORS aims to be different… Worker-owner Rosario Ceia, a 10-year veteran of the restaurant industry, says working at COLORS has been a radical change. Besides providing fair wages and benefits to worker-owners, COLORS is democratically organized into eight teams based on occupation—managers, line cooks, prep cooks, waiters, back waiters ("bus boys"), runners, dishwashers, and hosts. Each team has a representative on the board of directors. Rosario is not only a back waiter, but also treasurer of the board. Everyone participates in decision-making, Rosario emphasized, from adopting bylaws to choosing the restaurant's design. [2]

Work teams are generally made up of (fairly) permanent members, meaning that members in cooperatives with work teams typically stay in a specific field. Therefore, while work teams can be extremely beneficial in many ways, they may also limit the potential of workers to cross over and explore other jobs that are not their expertise.

Spotlighted Discussions

See Also


  1. No Bosses Here, Page 32-33; Vocations for Social Change, 1976, Boston, MA