“Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: Our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength.” —George Orwell, Animal Farm
AUSTIN, Tex.—The pastry chefs were unhappy. They had to follow the whims of the head baker, they weren’t allowed to take bathroom breaks, and the hairnets they had to wear were truly unflattering.
Inspired by an anti-capitalist documentary, they came up with a solution: no more bosses. The pastry chefs quit their jobs and joined together to form a vegan-donut co-op, where they could bake sweets free from the strict confines of the top-down corporate world.
But life without bosses was not all they had hoped. Instead of one boss to bother them, they each had four colleagues doing so. Baking sessions devolved into shouting matches as personalities clashed. Meetings had no order, and conversation would hop from farmer’s markets to glazes without any decisions or plans being made. No one would take charge. No one could. There were no bosses.
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Worker cooperatives are not new, but they’re seeing new life as progressive-minded employees seek out remedies for the nation’s growing economic inequality. Worker cooperatives are equally owned and governed by employees, who also earn money from the profits of their labor. There are no CEOs here making multi-million dollar salaries while workers receive minimum wage. Nor are there CEOs with decades of experience and education to successfully guide the company through the up and downs of the dog-eat-dog business world.