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Network of Bay Area Worker Collectives (NoBAWC) History
by NoBAWC
Saturday Jun 29th, 2002 11:49 AM
NoBAWC was founded in September 1994 when workers representing nine workplaces met to address the isolation of worker cooperatives and to build a worker cooperative movement. Strategically, this meant supporting existing worker cooperatives, establishing and strengthening bonds between worker co-ops and organizing new worker cooperatives.
Currently, NoBAWC is comprised of about 50 self-managed workplaces. By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process. The unequal boss-worker conventional relationship is replaced by an egalitarian one where each worker (except those who are temporary or in probationary periods) has as much potential decision-making power as the next, and where ultimate authority lies with the workers as a whole. NoBAWC member workplaces include small and medium-sized workplaces employing from a few to over two hundred workers and include workplaces from diverse industries and sectors of the economy. There is also diversity among worker cooperatives regarding their organizational and legal structures. Most are for profit while some are non-profit, most earn a living from their respective cooperative while some are volunteer-run and some utilize direct democracy while others use both direct and representational structures. Most of these workplaces have been operating successfully for years, with some celebrating more than twenty years in business.

Since its beginning, NoBAWC has been a volunteer organization run by workers from participating cooperatives. However, it is currently in the process of formalizing its structure to include a budget and staff in order to better serve the needs of self-managed businesses and to promote worker's self management in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. General meetings occur every other month; facilitators and notetakers are rotated, and minutes are maintained by an elected archivist. Decisions affecting NoBAWC (i.e. using the name and/or resources of the organization) are decided upon or ratified by the organization as a whole. Committees/project groups are autonomous with regard to their organizing, but they remain accountable to the organization. Decisions are made by modified consensus.

Despite the difficulty of meeting its ambitious goals with a volunteer-run budgetless structure, NoBAWC has had some significant accomplishments. First, the existence of NoBAWC has helped create community among worker cooperatives. It has reduced their isolation and has facilitated communication and relationship-building. This occurs on many levels, from larger meetings--to work groups and committees--to interpersonal interactions. For example, NoBAWC roundtables have been very successful in reducing isolation and building community between worker co-ops because they allow time to discuss varied solutions to common problems. Roundtables focus on a particular common issue or concern, such as diversity, hiring and firing, leadership or initiative, conflict resolution, etc. In addition to these formal settings, NoBAWC has served as a catalyst for workers from different co-ops to meet on their own in order to address roundtable issues in more depth or to discuss other difficulties a workplace may be having. This communication reminds co-op workers that they are not alone in dealing with these issues and that a wealth of knowledge and experience exists in other workplaces.

Second, NoBAWC has organized concrete projects in an effort to provide practically tangible benefits to its members. For example, NoBAWC has had a successful discount card program for over five years. Discount cards are distributed to workers at participating NoBAWC workplaces and entitle the holder to a 10% discount off the regular price on all goods and services at participating NoBAWC workplaces. Not only does this have an obvious financial reward, but also serves to replace the isolation of co-ops with solidarity and a sense of collective identity. In addition, NoBAWC has placed a joint newspaper advertisement and is developing a Web site that also have this dual effect. On the one hand, they serve a marketing need for NoBAWC workplaces, and on the other hand, they build cohesion among worker-run businesses by linking them in the print media and on the Internet. Moreover, NoBAWC is currently working on a worker co-op poster for display and distribution. It will contain a map as well as a photo and a description of each co-op. Like the discount card, joint advertisement, and the website, this project serves the dual role of marketing and building community. Furthermore, co-ops use NoBAWC as a hiring resource; by announcing job openings at meetings, workplaces have access to potential applicants who have experience working in a democratic setting.

Third, NoBAWC has supported struggling co-ops as well as helped new ones get off the ground. For instance, roundtables focusing on individual workplaces have served as unique forums to discuss the most difficult issues a worker co-op may be facing. These roundtables often lead to the continued involvement of workers from other workplaces in the search for solutions. NoBAWC has also served as an intermediary to connect people with newly forming cooperatives by offering advice and technical expertise, such as in the cases of a diver's cooperative and a heating and air conditioning co-op.

Lastly, NoBAWC has filled an educational and larger political role by forging links between the community and cooperative workplaces. For example, presentations by representatives of the National Cooperative Bank and the Community Bank of the Bay have both opened doors for worker co-ops that may be in need of financial assistance and have made financial institutions more aware of the worker cooperative community in the Bay Area. In addition, presentations by people that have worked with co-ops in the U.S. and abroad, or have done organizing similar to NoBAWC, give a wider perspective and historical continuity that is needed to overcome isolation and help NoBAWC and worker cooperatives learn from others‚ experiences. Also, NoBAWC has been involved in many conferences and community events, such as: the annual worker cooperative conference in Breitenbush, Oregon, conferences organized by the University of California at Davis Center for Cooperatives, the Active Resistance Conference, Reclaiming May Day events in San Francisco and NoBAWC members have participated in classes at the University of California at Berkeley. Moreover, there has been some newspaper coverage of NoBAWC which has helped to educate the community and promote worker cooperatives as a realistic alternative for working people.

The challenges that NoBAWC has faced and is facing are based on its structural limitations. A budgetless, volunteer-run organization comprised of people who periodically meet after work is limited in what it can accomplish. The difficulty of NoBAWC to realistically meet some of the goals expressed in its mission statement, the limits of its ability to respond to requests for assistance by individuals and workplaces and the inability to execute some projects reflect the limitations of NoBAWC organized as it is. In order to address these problems and move to the next level, NoBAWC has begun the process toward a more formalized structure with a budget and paid staff. A steering committee has been elected and this body has hired a part-time organizer. The steering committee and organizer have raised $12,200.00 so far to fund this transition to a more formalized NoBAWC. In addition to administrative duties and working on NoBAWC projects, the focus of the organizer's time will go toward drafting, conducting and evaluating a comprehensive survey of NoBAWC's approximately fifty member businesses. This survey will 1) evaluate the educational and technical assistance needs of worker cooperatives, 2) help develop NoBAWC's future legal, membership and decision-making structures and 3) help develop NoBAWC's funding base, including assessing the willingness of co-ops to pay dues to a more formalized NoBAWC structure. The survey results and open discussion will guide NoBAWC to a more formalized and effective future.

For more information, contact NoBAWC at (510) 549-1514 or nobawc [at] igc.org
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Comments  (Hide Comments)

by NoBAWC
Saturday Jun 29th, 2002 11:53 AM
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power San Francisco (ACTUP SF)
1884 Market Street, SF, 94102
(415) 864-6686
actupsf [at] hotmail.com
http://www.actupsf.com
Contact: Andrea, Gerard or Michael

AK Press
674-A 23rd Street, Oakland, 94612
(510) 208-1700
akpress [at] akpress.org
Contact: Zach Blue, Ramsey

Arizmendi (Oakland)
3265 Lakeshore, Oakland, 94610
(510) 268-8849
cjuniper [at] earthlink.net
Contact: Celeste Morosco, James Emmons

Arizmendi (San Francisco)
1331 9th Avenue, SF, 94122
(415) 566-3117
Contact: Kim McGee

Artists‚ Television Access (ATA)
992 Valencia St., SF, 94110
(415) 824-3890
luke [at] atasite.org
Contact: Luke Holmes

Bay Area Regional Exchange and Development (BREAD)
P.O. Box 3973, Berkeley, 94703
(510) 644-0376
info [at] breadhours.org
Contact: Dave Melly

Berkeley Free Clinic
2339 Durant Ave., Berkeley, 94704
(510) 548-2745
Contact: Kwan Chun, Cynthia Soito

Berkeley Massage and Self-Healing Center
1962 University Ave., Berkeley, 94704
(510) 843-4422
Contact: Mary Lynn

Berkeley Worms
400 Eshleman Hall, Attn: Compost, Berkeley, 94720
(510) 643-0440
berkeleyworms [at] yahoo.com
http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~compost
Contact: Chris

Bookpeople
7900 Edgewater Dr., Oakland, 94621 (
510) 632-4700
Contact: Dennis Terry, David Luce

Bound Together Bookstore
1369 Haight St, SF, 94117
(415) 431-8355
Contact: Tom, Becky or Jean

Cheeseboard
1504 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 94709
(510) 549-3183
Contact: Julia Elliott

Cheeseboard Pizza
1512 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 94709
(510) 549-3055
Contact: Guillermo

CLIQ Services Cooperative
65 Eastwood Court, Oakland, 94611
(510) 339-3007
info [at] cliq.com
Contact: Robin Bandy

Collectively Explorative Learning Labs (CELL)
2050 Bryant St., SF, 94110
(415) 648-7562
http://www.cellspace.org
Contact: John Wilson, Mia

Cooperative Digital
1442-A Walnut St. #344, Berkeley, 94709
(510) 644-8085
http://www.coopdigital.com
Contact: George Gleason

Copwatch
2022 Blake St., Berkeley, 94704
(510) 548-0425
Contact: Dennis Mobley

Cupid Courier Collective
P.O. Box 313, SF, 94104
(415) 720-1479
(415) 720-2536
http://www.cupidcourier.net
Contact: Jim Kaiser

Development and Support Cooperative
733 Baker St., SF, 94115
(415) 346-5762
Contact: Tim Huet

Dragracer Messenger Collective
P.O. Box 423018, SF, 94142
(415) 559-8106
(415) 559-8096
Contact: Bonnie Dundee, Mary Schwab

Eco-Care Professional Housecleaning
c/o WAGES (see WAGES for address)
(510) 272-0564


Emma’s Eco-clean
693 Veterans Blvd. #1,
Redwood City, 94063
(650) 261-1788 emmasbiz [at] aol.com
Contact: Maria Rosales

Eviction Defense Center
1611 Telegraph Ave., Suite 726, Oakland, 94612
(510) 452-4541
Contact: Anne

File 13 Recycling
504 Eshelman Hall, UC Berkeley, 94720
(510) 642-4895
Contact: Sarah Lince

The Girl Army
1051 5th Ave., studio C, Oakland, 94606
(415) 835-4728
Contact: Julie Schweit

Good Vibrations (San Francisco store)
1210 Valencia St., SF, 94110
(415) 974-8980
goodvibe [at] well.com see Open Enterprises

Good Vibrations (Berkeley store)
2504 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 94702
(510) 841-8987 goodvibe [at] well.com
see Open Enterprises

Happy Cow Collective
2415 Prospect St., Berkeley, 94704
(510) 848-4653
http://www.happycowcollective.com
Contact: Karen Edwards,Desirée Sideroff

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
San Francisco Bay Area General Membership Branch
2022 Blake St., Berkeley, 94704
(415) 863-9627
http://www.iww.org
Contact: Ocean Mottley

Inkworks
2827 7th St., Berkeley, 94710
(510) 845-7111 inkworks [at] igc.org
Contact: Bernard Marszalek

Juice Bar Collective Restaurant
2114 Vine St., Berkeley, 94709
(510) 548-8473
Contact: Caitlin Pitts, Leah Drayton

Long Haul/Infoshop
3124 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 94705
(510) 540-0751

Magic Years 1221
Nevin Ave., Richmond, 94801
(510) 970-2130
Contact: Kate Ashby

Manos Janitorial Cooperative
2869 38th Avenue, Oakland, 94619
(510) 534-8578
Contact: Otto Rodriguez, Kevin Rath

Maybeck High School
2362 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 94704
(510) 841-8489
Contact: Jim Montgomery

Midnight Special Law Collective
1837 8th Avenue, Oakland, 94606
(510) 834-1883
info [at] midnightspecial.net
Contact: Dan Spalding

Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative
1988 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 94704
(510) 843-7471 workers [at] missinglink.org
Contact: Samantha or Marc

Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia Street, SF, 94110
(415) 282-9246
http://www.moderntimesbookstore.com
Contact: Amanda Davidson Peta-Gay Pottinger

Nabolom Bakery
2708 Russell St., Berkeley, 94706
(510) 845-1237
jim [at] nabolom.com Jim Stockton

924 Gilman Street Street:
924 Gilman St. in Berkeley
Mailing: Alternative Music Foundation
P.O. Box 1058, Berkeley, CA 94701
(510) 525-9926
Contact: Sammy or Jesse

Open Enterprises
(Good Vibrations, The Sexuality Library, and Down There Press)
938 Howard St. #101, SF, 94103
(415) 974-8985
glennb [at] goodvibes.com
goodvibe [at] well.com
Contact: Glenn Bachmann (ext. 200)

Other Avenues Food Store
3930 Judah, SF, 94122
(415) 661-7475
Contact: Liz Richardson

Pedal Express
P.O. Box 10141, Berkeley, 94709
(510) 843-7339
Contact: Dave Cohen

La Peña Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 94705
(510) 849-2568
Contact: Elena Serrano

Rainbow Grocery Cooperative
1745 Folsom St., SF, 94103
(415) 863-0620
don [at] rainbowgrocery.org
Don Reynolds, Gordon Edgar

Red Vic Movie House
1727 Haight St., SF, 94117
(415) 668-8999
Contact: Martha, Dennis

San Francisco Mime Troupe
855 Treat Ave., SF, 94110
(415) 285-1717
miche [at] sfmt.org
Contact: Miche Hall

Shimako-Dominguez
69 Waller St., SF 94102
(415) 864-7448 info [at] shimako.com
Contact: Rob Kahn

Suigetsukan Martial Arts School
1051 5th Ave., studio C, Oakland, 94606
(510) 452-3941
Mike Esmailzadeh


Walden Center and School
2446 McKinley St., Berkeley, 94703
(510) 841-7248
Contact: Marie Switkes

Women Defending Ourselves
P.O. Box 19006, Stanford, CA 94309
(415) 289-7944
(510) 601-0141
wdo [at] wdo.org
http://www.wdo.org
Contact: Renee Sanchez

Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES)
1214 Webster St., Suite B, Oakland, 94612
(510) 272-0564
wages [at] lmi.net
http://www.wagescooperatives.org
Contact: Rebecca Bauen
To properly proselytize, opportunities exist within NoBAWC for a meaningful departure from everything you can list that sucks about corporate America. If you're coming out of high school, tech school, community college or a university with concerns about competing for employment that leads to working for a company whose practices you're probably not going to end up being comfortable with, you can start your own business instead--with others who feel the same way or enjoy the same type of work you do.

Trades and industries represented by the various collectives in the Bay Area are wide-ranging. Computer repair, graphic design, martial arts instruction, bicycle repair, messenger service, book retail and distribution, bakeries and other food retailers comprise about half of the spectrum. And at each recent NoBAWC meeting, membership has increased.

Collectives are each operated differently, but the operators of collectives focus on something corporations can't afford to: benefit to their workers. This is so because the operators--who are in many cases owners as well--are the ones who are doing the work. Living wage, health coverage, humanly feasible workloads, paid vacation and other facets of viable employment quickly emerge as issues when the collectively operated business enjoys a degree of success.

Collectives are not "a way to make cash" (for travel so you can leave the country, buy a means to tour the country--you plug in the reason for accumulated capital) because cash doesn't build community. But if you want to apply your mind and soul in the workplace without having to push ahead of other people to become part of some mythical "elite," collective operation is your canvas. What you get out of your experience depends on what you put in, and you've heard that before, but it's a relief not to hear it coming from a supervisor whose pay increases if you believe the same about a corporate contract for employment.

Take a look at some of the groups on the list and consider inquiring for information about their company. I hear people complain about corporations, how they treat their workers, how they have no regard for the environment beyond their profit margins. When these same people land a job with the companies about which they were complaining, they get quiet. What happened to those ethical concerns? When you operate a business with others in a worker-democratic setting, those concerns can receive their due voice instead of being quelled by equitable compensation--things that ought to already be in place.

Worker collectives offer opportunities for viable employment in an atmosphere where that notion appears more and more scarce with each passing merger.

Collin
Other Avenues Food Store
Bound Together Bookstore
collin [at] boundtogether.org
by worker bee
Monday Jul 1st, 2002 9:40 AM
You write that "NoBAWC is comprised of about 50 self-managed workplaces. By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process."

This may be the case at places like Bound Together but it certainly is not the case at Bookpeople. They hire temps, have an authoritarian system of management and are loathe to implement any suggestions by workers. Workers at Bookpeople defintely do not "control the resources and organization of the work process."

Bookpeople is _not_ a collective. In their own words, they are an "employee owned and operated" business. Management would routinely point out
this in meetings.

I know what I write first-hand because I worked at Bookpeople for two and a half years. We tried to promote self-management at Bookpeople and our efforts were derided by management and they refused to bring up our suggestions at our weekly meetings. They even had the audacity to try and get rid of the weekly meetings all together and have management meet, alone, behind closed doors. This hardly seems like "workers self-management" to me.

A group of us went to NoBAWC meetings to see what kind of support we could drum up and if you had any ideas to promote self-management at Bookpeople. We went away feeling good about our struggle but in the end it didn't change anything. Mangement had their way.

I would strongly consider either removing Bookpeople from your list of "self-managed" workplaces or ammending your definition as it most definitely does not fit the description.

by worker bee
Monday Jul 1st, 2002 9:41 AM
You write that "NoBAWC is comprised of about 50 self-managed workplaces. By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process."

This may be the case at places like Bound Together but it certainly is not the case at Bookpeople. They hire temps, have an authoritarian system of management and are loathe to implement any suggestions by workers. Workers at Bookpeople defintely do not "control the resources and organization of the work process."

Bookpeople is _not_ a collective. In their own words, they are an "employee owned and operated" business. Management would routinely point out
this in meetings.

I know what I write first-hand because I worked at Bookpeople for over two years. We tried to promote self-management at Bookpeople and our efforts were derided by management and they refused to bring up our suggestions at our weekly meetings. They even had the audacity to try and get rid of the weekly meetings all together and have management meet, alone, behind closed doors. This hardly seems like "workers self-management" to me.

A group of us went to NoBAWC meetings to see what kind of support we could drum up and if you had any ideas to promote self-management at Bookpeople. We went away feeling good about our struggle but in the end it didn't change anything. Mangement had their way.

I would strongly consider either removing Bookpeople from your list of "self-managed" workplaces or ammending your definition as it most definitely does not fit the description.

by worker bee
Monday Jul 1st, 2002 9:42 AM
You write that "NoBAWC is comprised of about 50 self-managed workplaces. By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process."

This may be the case at places like Bound Together but it certainly is not the case at Bookpeople. They hire temps, have an authoritarian system of management and are loathe to implement any suggestions by workers. Workers at Bookpeople defintely do not "control the resources and organization of the work process."

Bookpeople is _not_ a collective. In their own words, they are an "employee owned and operated" business. Management would routinely point out
this in meetings.

I know what I write first-hand because I worked at Bookpeople for over two years. We tried to promote self-management at Bookpeople and our efforts were derided by management and they refused to bring up our suggestions at our weekly meetings. They even had the audacity to try and get rid of the weekly meetings all together and have management meet, alone, behind closed doors. This hardly seems like "workers self-management" to me.

A group of us went to NoBAWC meetings to see what kind of support we could drum up and if you had any ideas to promote self-management at Bookpeople. We went away feeling good about our struggle but in the end it didn't change anything. Mangement had their way.

I would strongly consider either removing Bookpeople from your list of "self-managed" workplaces or ammending your definition as it most definitely does not fit the description.

by Gene Taback
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 10:32 AM
Bookpeople is a unique organization which has for more than 30 years been owned equally by its current employees. Ultimate authority in both policy and management matters rests with a Board of Directors which is elected yearly by an equal vote of all shareholding employees. We have in recent years hired a few "temps" whose interests generally are shorter range. We have always had a management structure consisting of Department Heads. Sometimes we have had a General Manager, but currently do not. A few years ago a group of our employees proposed to the Board of Directors that we do away with our Department Head structure. The Board thought about this and decided against it. Everyone’s suggestions are paid attention to, but not necessarily adopted.
by Edwin Bish (ebish [at] bponline.com)
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 12:28 PM
Keep Bookpeople on the list or remove it I have no opinion, but please know that we have _never_ presented ourselves as anything other than an employee owned and operated company. We were incorporated in 1971 as Bookpeople Employees Association Inc. and employee ownership is even a part of the company logo (check the web site at http://www.bponline.com)
Anyone who feels or wished Bookpeople should have been something else, I'm sorry, but again and from the start, it was never anything else.

WARNING: Boring facts follow, read on or skip at your leisure:

As for decisions being in the hands of employees, know these facts: 1. Policy is determined by the Board of Directors, 2. The Board is elected each year from all the current Shareholders, 3. The Shareholders are the current employees who have finished a 6 month introductory period and decided at hiring time to be on track for shareholder-ship, 4. Any shareholder is eligible to run for the board and 5. Any employee (shareholder or not) has access at any time to the board through personal contact or written proposal.

As for self management, it goes like this: the employee/shareholders answers to their department head/manager, that department head/manager answers to the Board, the Board answers to the employee/shareholders. A closed loop.
by anarchist
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 12:41 PM
a closed loop?
yeah a capitalist closed loop.
take this shit off. anarchist collectives have a hard enough time being independent from capitalism.
by Edwin Bish (see above)
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 1:00 PM
By all means, take this shit off. Again Bookpeople has _never_ been an anarchist collective and I don't know how many of the companies on the above list would call themselves "anarchist collectives". I would think that an unfair assumption.
by worker bee
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 1:13 PM
of workers self-management but it is not NoBAWCs. Once again:

<<By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process.>>

The workers at bookpeople do not control the work process, especially the temps. When I worked there most of the packers--the lowest job in the workplace hierarchy--were temps. Regarding Gene Taback's comment, I think the percentage of temps to "worker-owners" has grown over the years, hasn't it? Temps are workers, aren't they? If so, Bookpeople does not fit this description.

There are plenty of employee ownership schemes similar to Bookpeople's but they are not examples of workers self-management according to NoBAWCs own definition. They should comply with NoBAWCs definition and truly implement workers self management or be removed from the list.
by Edwin Bish (see above)
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 1:31 PM
Once again, we never represented ourselves as anything but an employee owned and operated company. If you don't feel we should be there, fine. Forward your reasons to NoBAWC, but diatribes on this page are pointless, I gotta get back to work.

P.S. as for the workplace hierarchy (and every workplace has a hierarchy, let's not bullshit here), why do you assume packing is the lowest? I was a packer/puller for years and as a wholesaler if the packing isn't good we don't survive. I see packing as one of the more important posts.
by worker bee
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 2:17 PM
<<P.S. as for the workplace hierarchy (and every workplace has a hierarchy, let's not bullshit here), why do you assume packing is the lowest?>>

I know every workplace is a hierarchy, I was simply pointing out that packers are lowest in the food chain and you know it. Everyone starts as a packer and as soon as they can, they move on to other jobs.

<<I was a packer/puller for years and as a wholesaler if the packing isn't good we don't survive. I see packing as one of the more important posts.>>

I don't doubt they are crucial to the operation but they make the least money. They also are the most exploited workers at Bookpeople because the ones that are temps are not officially "employee owners."

As far as your comments regarding NoBAWC, and diatribes, I thought this was an open forum? When I read a post starting with the lines,

"Currently, NoBAWC is comprised of about 50 self-managed workplaces. By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process."

and I see Bookpeople on the list of course I'm going to say something! Especially on a news board that is frequented by anarchists and others who actually know what the term means.

I will bring it up with NoBAWC but wanted to see what kind of replies would be posted here.
by Edwin Bish
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 3:05 PM
I'm sorry you are so angry, you pined for something that never was. You wanted an anarchist collective and we were/are not that.
Years ago, there was a motion from both the shareholdership and dept heads that resulted in the abolishment of agency temps. We still have part-time workers (always have) but they are people who hired on to be part-time to fit their lives.
There have been a lot of changes in the years you've been gone.
I don't know why I write this, you don't even believe my work history on the packing line and I still don't get the anarchist connection, the board is hosted by independent media, not anarchists alone.
Sure it's an open board, but don't you think other people have other interests and we are beating a dead issue here? One that should be pursued with the actual organization?
OK that's it, I gotta go.
by Edwin Bish (see above)
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 4:33 PM
Dear NoBAWC,
I am very sorry, as the title indicates this string was supposed to be about your history/herstory and accomplishments, not petty squabbles. Please accept my apologies for going off topic so far and for so long.
yrs
Edwin
by worker bee
Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2002 5:54 PM
You are the one who seems to be taking this personally. I was just pointing out that Bookpeople does not live up to NoBAWCs stated definition of "worker self-management." What is so hard to understand about that? You either fit the definition or you do not. It has nothing to do with "petty squabbles" or "anger." From my side at least.

I never said that Bookpeople was an anarchist collective or that Indymedia is "hosted" or run by anarchists in my replies. I wrote that indymedia is "frequented by anarchists and others who actually know what the term [workers self-management] means."

The only time I mentioned the word collective was to point out that Bookpeople was not a collective but an "employee owned and operated workplace." I mentioned this, because in the first reply, Collin from bound together stated that "Collectives are an Alternative to Having No Voice in Your Workplace." I agree with his statement but BP is not a collective. Workers have little say in how the production process is ran, how profits are distributed, and so on.
WHOA, WHOA, Whoa, waitaminit folks. Sorry I'm late. I work long hours because I'm an owner responsible to all these owners, including myself, and collective operation isn't a bed of roses.

Which brings me to the point: this shit is what you make it, folks. Corporate America is definitely not what you make it, just to find a point of reference and get some perspectives. Work the life out of yourself or slack, but know management is standing on a foundation made from the bricks of everything you accomplish.

Now ... I've heard this about Bookpeople before. And I work with somebody who gave me some history on it recently. There are great workers' collectives and then there are the problems that plague each and every workers' collective, specific to its function, industry, size, attitude of the people who have decision-making power, range and magnitude of competition within the industry, ad nauseum.

You can have worker democracy in a collective. In a corporation, you could theoretically have it as well. The point being YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR IT. Just like with any terms of employment that have ever remotely been fair throught history.

Bookpeople is a tough situation because it has management. Management are capitalists and capitalists prioritize self-preservation over reason.
If you follow the IWW line, you're either a worker or you're a boss. Someone in a company with more authority than another worker in a company is obviously some variation of the IWW's definition of boss.

Having a share with no say in operations isn't worker democracy and neither is having a say with no share.

I know a bookstore in the Mission facing issues with the latter. NoBAWC member.

I love being in a volunteer collective without all the stress, but I secure my rent from a collective that has part-time workers. Guess what: they contribute more than a third of our labor and their compensation is severely lacking compared with those of full collective members. No benefits, no real say in the operations of the business. Twelve bosses instead of one.

And there are benefits to not being a worker-owner, but in the place of having decision-making power in your workplace? That's why Worker Bee's highly valid point and salient testimony are central to this discussion.

What's important isn't that you have some monetary investment in something with other shareholders. That shit's rising and falling on Wall Street every day. What's important is to protect your vested interest in the place where you do your work by having an equal say in decisions made regarding its operation.

Getting back to the point, NoBAWC is filled with collectives of highly varying scales. Some keep the lights on and pay the commercial rent. Some aspire to that. Some have what critics would find to be adequate worker-democratic ownership and operation. Some face deterrents to that favorable situation. Some collective members are highly skilled or highly experienced. Some are not, but they will be. Some folks in collectives are hard to get along with the same as people you've worked with in corporate workplaces.

The idealist's vision of that truth is if you want a fair workplace where your say is as important as anyone else's, you've got to put your money where your mouth is, put your foot in the door, put your mouth in the meetings and give your new colleagues a piece of your mind. You can try that with a corporation, but I'm betting a weekend of paid vacation you'll have better luck representing yourself with a collective.

If you land in a collective that has problems like those we've discussed, you're going to have to read the bylaws and determine a course of action where you can revive worker operation and ownership with the help of conscientious coworkers who are invested in the effort.

And that's a lot of work. The same way the actual cost of some item manufactured in a plant overseas and shipped through distributors to a store in your neighborhood far exceeds the price tagged on it when you pick it up, labor removed from the context of profit-driven society is much more involved than it appears when you punch someone else's clock and pick up a paycheck you didn't have to post yourself.

I may just be blowing smoke, but we'll see. It's going to take time and the agreement of eleven other people to bring about the changes that need to be made in my workplace. I'm going to have to represent my fellow worker who doesn't enjoy the same compensation as I do. I'm going to have no choice but to secure support from other collective members on this issue. It's no easy task, but it's one of the best contributions I can make to my workplace. Check back with me in three months (collectives, for those who don't know, take a long time to make decisions).

Try not to get disheartened by worst-case scenarios. Work toward something besides just paying your landlord wages for doing nothing.
by aaron
Wednesday Jul 3rd, 2002 1:48 AM
As a former long-time bike messenger, my two cents:

The issue of "going indie"/forming a collective is seen by many messengers as the best and/or most viable way of fighting the system/freeing oneself. Some of the "indies" have succeeded in the sense that pro-collectivistas on this thread have alluded to. However, the market still rules. The indies pretty much play the same game as all the rest of the messenger companies: they low-ball and grovel to get work from downtown business. Even the few that refuse certain particularly horrid corporations are still serving a niche. Capital isn't in the least bit threatened. The indies provide one more choice in the courier market.

It's important to see the degree to which collectives can operate in a manner that is highly complimentary to capital generally. It's still a business.

I'm not saying that collectives are categorically bad, but we need to be critical. Collectives can be a relative good -- the operative word being 'relative'. They also can amount to a form of self-managed servitude. Or just a more cooperative form of avarice.
by Wobblie Girl
Wednesday Jul 3rd, 2002 6:12 PM
This is a very interesting and important discussion. However, it is important to make some defintions and facts clear.
"Currently, NoBAWC is comprised of about 50 self-managed workplaces. By self-management, it is meant a workplace where the workers control the means of production, the resources of the organization and the work process."
Sorry Gene and Edwin. It seems that Bookpeople lets "Ultimate authority in both policy and management matters [rest] with a Board of Directors which is elected yearly by an equal vote of all shareholding employees." In a properly self-managed workplace, ultimate authority rests with the workers, those who do the production. Bookpeople does not fit this definition. But keep trying...you might get it right eventually.

While I support the spirit of Co-Op's message some things need to be cleared up.
Co-Op wrote:
"Bookpeople is a tough situation because it has management."
That fact, supported by Worker bee, Edwin Bish and Gene Taback's comments, illustrate exactly why Bookpeople is NOT a collective. Having management (however nice they may be) means that the decision-making process, authority and glory are not shared equally in the workplace.

"Management are capitalists and capitalists prioritize self-preservation over reason."
Capitalist managers are not the only ones who prioritize self-preservation. Most economic systems, and people in general, have self-preservation as a very high priority. Any union organizer will tell you that.

"If you follow the IWW line, you're either a worker or you're a boss. Someone in a company with more authority than another worker in a company is obviously some variation of the IWW's definition of boss."
Yes, in a non-collective workplace you are either a worker or a boss. The IWW's definition of a boss is someone who has the power to hire and/or fire. Issues of monopoly of information, cults of personality, general assholism are power issues but different ones.
by you are too sick for us
Thursday Jul 4th, 2002 5:07 AM
Smashtheleft:

"Please help me. I just want acceptance."

Yes you do need help but you are too sick for us. Please seek help elsewhere.

Acceptance is the easy part. Stop being such an asshole and you'll make friends.
by Co-op (collin [at] boundtogether.org)
Friday Jul 5th, 2002 7:28 PM
Be as Right and as right as you like, SmashTheLeft, but just ... just assure the rest of us you'll do something once every week or two that you truly enjoy. Posting to this site is not readily evidently one of those things. Maybe shooting up the post office branch where you work is, so I might have to rethink my suggestion.

... as I brace myself for the retalliation.

I thank Wobbly Girl for intelligent comments/perspective and clarification of a few of my hurried ambiguities.

The point of the string (in my idealized view) is with an entity like NoBAWC there are positive aspects from the anarchist/worker self-managed perspective and there are negative aspects with regard to self-management.

Assuming the interest is a position somewhere in the realm of worker control, the question stands, "does NoBAWC, taken in all its parts—Bookpeople to Bound Together—act more to serve worker self-management opportunities or more to allow the first collective members on board to subjugate and exploit other workers for their own gain? That's a question of ongoing evaluation, unless the record currently shows the objectives stated by the mission of NoBAWC heavily contradict results charted on its track record. I'll not revisit the words of the mission statement here because I want to provide a piece of news related to this thread.

NoBAWC is currently finishing collecting a survey. The survey is lengthy—four pages of questions about how a NoBAWC member collective organizes itself. NoBAWC has a five-member steering committee who put the survey together. It's goal is to tally the responses in surveys successfully collected from each member collective and engage in a series of agenda items that may or may not serve to restructure the body's membership requirements.

In the event it does alter requirements for membership, getting denied admittance to NoBAWC means only to lose your 10 percent privileges at other member businesses. In the abstract, the 10 percent card and membership mean a lot to me. In reality, I concur 10 percent savings isn't even comparable to collecting coupons and clip-out promotional ads. The meetings are open, until otherwise noted. Decision is consensus, so all one must do is show up at each one to block any decision that might bar one from attending.

NoBAWC is a tool. Just like a pipe stretcher (a worker joke for a tool that doesn't exist because its purpose is absurd, for those who don't know) or a loaded machine gun. The way it's implemented depends on who picks it up. Management of Bookpeople don't attend NoBAWC meetings—workers do. That's just one example.

Raising awareness (I'm addressing everybody now, not just Smash, Wobbly Girl, Nessie, Edwin, et al) about NoBAWC is the means, not the end. Now is an advantageous time to alert workers to the existence and operations structure of NoBAWC. There exists enormous potential for something new and different to emerge, something unlike what we've read about Spain 1936 or Ukraine 1918-21 or even Chicago 1886. It will be something entirely unidentifiable from any historical or geographical standpoints, a cell within capitalism that resembles capitalism yet mimics movements that flourished in other countries and were subsequently coercively coopted or summarily smashed. It may be a workers' movement or a business owners movement, a loud bang or a whisper.

It all depends who gets involved and what their intentions are. Either way, it just might provide someplace within its structure, a place for folks to work who want some principles served along with pay that keeps the heat on and food on the table.

I encourage anybody to investigate the collectives further and see whether any might promise something one can't seem to find in other workplaces (permission granted to throw up on the idealist's shoes at any moment henceforth).

-Collin at Bound Together
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