The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

A Large Corporate Low Wage Service Sector Makes For a Town Without a Soul

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The Emeryville Tattler blog post, A Large Corporate Low Wage Service Sector Makes For a Town Without a Soul, delves into the debate about how to best develop the town.  The Tattler calls for a new paradigm – one that moves away from the “flawed auto-centric model” with “lots of shopping malls and drive-in drive-out lofts (formally condos, now morphing into one bedroom 100% rental projects).”  The author points out that this model “resplendent with fast food franchises and retail chain stores, also brings a plethora of low wage/ no benefits service jobs that seem to be attached at the hip with this brand of development.  So ubiquitous now is this kind of development in Emeryville, minimum wage/ zero benefits service sector jobs have fairly come to be seen as representative of Emeryville and its values by the greater community.” The Tattler states that the town can bring in a new municipal polity by ushering in and developing more businesses based on the cooperative model.

Businesses where the workers themselves own the enterprise represent a different model for how retail stores and other business can be refashioned in Emeryville.  These worker owned businesses offer a living wage and benefits for their workers. They also offer Emeryville residents a moral choice as they comport their daily transactions in the commons.

The most compelling part of the piece is the following comparison between Emeryville’s cooperative, Arizmendi Bakery vs. Panera Bread, your standard corporate chain store:

Arizmendi Bakery vs Panera Bakery
Arizmendi Bakery has operated at 4301 San Pablo Avenue since 2003 after former councilman John Fricke worked to attract the popular cooperative to the newly built Promenade site amid skeptical colleagues on the Council.  The bakery has been extremely popular offering a locally owned counter point to the national chain restaurant  I-HOP also in the Promenade development.
Arizmendi Bakery and Panera Bakery on 40th Street offers us a chance to directly compare the two business models:Arizmendi Bakery (worker owned cooperative model)-
  • pays at least $16 per hour
  • full health insurance and dental coverage for all
  • worker owned and democratically run
  • worker/owners share in year end profits
  • stipends paid for work related purchases
  • five Bay Area locations
  • Emeryville store is independently owned
Panera Bakery (standard Emeryville corporate model)-
  • pays employees $8.06 per hour
  • no benefits
  • stockholder owned and run by CEO and Board of Directors
  • more than 1500 locations across the US and Canada
  • corporate headquarters in St Louis MO
  • Emeryville unit sends its profits to the corporate headquarters

The post goes on to tout the additional benefits of worker owned cooperatives:

Worker owned cooperatives have also been shown to increase social justice and stability.  Cal Berkeley graduate student Amanda Cook, wrote a 2009 thesisdocumenting this benefit.  From her study, “In many conventional workplaces, workers perceive their interests as opposing corporate interests. Worker cooperatives, on the other hand, promote the idea that business practices should be compatible with everyone’s interests. Instead of becoming a battleground for individual and corporate interests, worker cooperatives adopt a family-like atmosphere of support, mutual responsibility, and, of course, cooperation.”
Ms Cook documents how worker cooperatives provide benefit to workers and the surrounding community in three major ways; she shows how this work “…is intrinsically valuable, participatory democracy is an educational activity, and active participation in decision making in one social sphere is likely to encourage active participation in other spheres.”

You can read the whole post here.


Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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