The Workers' Paradise A Discussion of Workers Cooperatives and Building the New Economy

January 1, 2013

A new year, and a new start

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 2:42 pm

It has been a difficult couple of years for this blog. This has been the result of two issues. First, I entered a PhD program that has drawn most of my energy (specifically in terms of writing). Second, my life at Union Cab has been quite busy and I have generally tried not to write directly about my cooperative (or at least not about internal issues). The latter issue has created the most problems as I became interim General Manager in July of 2011 and Business Manager in May of 2012.

My coursework for the PhD is almost complete (two papers and comp exams). The world at Union Cab has evolved to the point that our flattened hierarchy no longer makes me “The Man”. I think that this allows me the energy and comfort zone to return to a discussion of worker cooperatives in the United States (and elsewhere as they effect our movement).

I will return to a Monday morning post and other posts as the news warrants. I have a lot to write about, especially impressions from the Imagine Conference held in Quebec last October. I have also gained a lot of insight into the lessons of power and disrupting power in our movement.

In addition to my posts, I want to re-invite everyone in the worker coop world to offer a guest column or even a regular column. I would still like this site to provide an arena of discussion and debate. If you want to do a single column, a quarterly column, a monthly column, a weekly column or even a daily column, please let me know and I will provide you with the log-in credentials. We need our voices in the discussion of our economy and our movement. If we can’t engage, then our work will be defined for us (most likely by people with different agendas than worker control and economic democracy).

I am looking forward to a great year to build on the momentum from the Year of the Cooperatives. I hope that you join me.

July 25, 2011

Excuse the Absence–and a quick word on structure

Filed under: Human Relations,Site News — Tags: , , — John McNamara @ 12:51 pm

Has it really been a month since I last posted? Yikes! I am truly sorry to those who have been checking in on Mondays. I will get back to it. As some of you know, I entered a PhD program that condenses classes into an intense two-month session in Halifax. By the end of June, I felt like the intellectual version of veal. Students ahead of me warned that July is not a very productive month. Of course, to make matters even more difficult, I returned on July 2nd only to turn around and attend the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy and the USFWC annual meeting in  Baltimore on July 9.  I returned to Madison only to find that the General Manager of my co-operative took a job with another company and I was then named interim General Manager (my first official day is tomorrow).

So, it has been a busy month. I did manage to start on some of my papers, however. I am considering the research issues regarding bullying in the workplace. I’ve only scratched the surface of the extant research at this point (with another 20 or so papers to read); however, the interesting thing that I noticed is that the presence of hierarchy creates a environment that is more prone to workplace aggression. I haven’t gotten into the whys and wherefores yet, but I can see how a top-down structure encourages people to try and hold on to their place in the hierarchy by preventing others from moving up. Added to that is the overall culture of investor corporations that tells people to “move up or move out”. There are lessons here for our co-operatives, of course, but we should also be wary of simply saying “hierarchy bad, collectivism good”.  Hierarchy exists in two forms: formal and informal. It is relatively easy to dismantle the formal hierarchy, but the informal one can persist and will resist attempts to quash it. Part of this is cultural in that we have borrowed the idea of seniority from the labor movement as an unbiased means of distinguishing between people and part of it is social as we form friendships and relationships that might be risked if we challenge one another or stray to far from the organizational comfort zone in decision making.

No big conclusions today, just a few thoughts for folks to mull over. I am back and will continue on my Monday routine. See you all next week (if not sooner)!

May 4, 2011

What’s Up?

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 9:41 pm

Okay, I owe my readers an explanation–I have missed a few Mondays. I have a good excuse–at least I think that I do.

I entered the PhD in Business Administration program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS. In fact, I am typing from a small monk’s cell in Rice Hall. This is an incredibly, yet intense and compact, program. The classes basically happen between May 1 and June 30 with several special seminars and guest speakers. In addition, I need to present at the Canadian Association for Study in Co-operatives as well as the Canadian Industrial Relations Association during the first week of June.

I use to think that I was “busy”. That word simply hasn’t any meaning anymore. I am typing on the evening of my third day–it is the first day that I do not have to read hundreds of pages and be able to present at 9:00 am since I started.

However, I want to keep the blog going, but I also want it to be relevant. I really don’t think that you want to hear my thoughts on post-modernism or radical humanism (although I do think that worker  co-operatives are a physical expression of that paradigm–or they could be if they would reject the positivistism that dominates our organizations). See? you really don’t want that for the next 10 weeks!

So here is what I am going to do–and I can’t promise that the meta theory stuff won’t push its way in–next Monday, I am going to start a series in which I will go through the entire “little brown book”. This book is called “Reflections” by Don José María Arizemendiaretta, the spiritual founder of Mondragon. I will likely pull more than one quote per week. I will try to bounce around, but will likely run through it in a linear fashion just to keep my sanity.

I hope that you jump in and add your comments.

I also want to throw this out again–if you wish to contribute to this blog (under your name) please do so. I want this to be OUR blog. I want this to be more than my voice.

December 13, 2010

Join the Conversation!

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 5:16 pm

It’s been a bit quiet lately. Not that I don’t have ideas or am thinking about things, but nothing has been, shall we say, blog worthy lately. I will probably get something up in the next day or two about the incoming Republican majority and how we, as worker co-operators, need to consider our approach to this new dynamic.

What I would like to do today, is to renew my long-standing invitation to invite those of you with ideas of your own about the Worker C0-op world to join the conversation here. We need to get our voices out.

Here is the deal: If you are willing to contribute, I will be happy to adjust your status to allow you to independently post on this site. I want more voices on the movement.

Currently, Fred Schepartz and Bernard Marzelek have contributed. Gordan Edgar and John Atherton haven’t contributed yet, but have the ability if the chosse (ahem).

As publisher, I will only edit your post for the following reasons:

1. present a consistent format: put people’s names in bold (link to their web site or wiki page as apporpriate), put the names of businesses in bold (link to web site if a co-op).

2. Add tags and categories if you don’t

3. personal attacks (real persons, not corporations) or issues that really haven’t anything to do with the worker co-operative movement (i.e., if you want to talk about 9/11 Truth movement, the JFK assassination, or Ralph Nadar please start your own blog).

Please join–we need to have a discussion. I am going to work with GEO to see if we can mirror this site on to their site; however, we need our own space to talk about our movement. There are about 400-500 people who read this blog on a regular basis. I really want to hear from you. I want a conversation, not a broadcast.

If you currently blog, feel free to simply cross post your posts that deal with worker co-operatives here. It might be a way to increase your readership (and I will be happy to update our blog roll to include your site).

October 5, 2010

American Worker Cooperatives

Filed under: Education,Movement,Site News — John McNamara @ 7:56 am

For those of you who check the links on the right hand side, you will notice a new entry: American Worker Cooperatives. I was asked to add it and am happy to do so. According to the “About” page by Arizmendi veteran Joe Marraffino,

“This website is a weblog that anyone can comment on.

The goal of the site is to assemble a contemporary history of the worker cooperative movement in the United States, first by accumulating an inventory of people, organizations, writings, media, and eventually through some sort of synthesis.   When I first became interested in the movement I would have loved it if there was a site that drew from all the disparate participants to show its scope and context.  So that’s what I’m trying to put together.

Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to add your comments.”

It is a very great collection already and will certainly be a resource for all of us.

April 12, 2010

this week’s regular post delayed

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 6:12 pm

Sorry, folks. I was finishing my final paper for the MMCCU and preparing for a training that I am doing on Wednesday. I didn’t have time to do the regular entry. I will try to get it done tomorrow or Wednesday night.

February 16, 2010

Coming Soon-A Group Discussion (I hope)

Filed under: Movement,Site News,The Cleveland Model — Tags: — John McNamara @ 7:10 am

The March 1 edition of The Nation has an article on the growing industrial worker cooperative movement. I use the word “industrial” to differentiate it from the worker cooperative movement in the United States that has flourished over the last 30-40 years. This group is big (even by Rainbow and Union Cab standards). It is very traditional blue collar (laundry, construction, etc).

I have asked the folks who are on this site as authors to post their reactions to the article. This is because The Nation wants this to go viral. They sent out the following email:


I’m Ben Wyskida, Publicity Director for The Nation magazine. We have a major feature this week from Gar Alperovitz & Ted Howard (of the Democracy Collaborative and and Thad Williamson  that they wanted me to share with you. We hope you’ll read the article, blog, tweet, email, post and pass on to your colleagues. Hardcopies are available as well. Here is the piece:

The Cleveland Model
GAR ALPEROVITZ, TED HOWARD &THAD WILLIAMSON : Thoroughly green and worker-owned, co-ops are a vibrant response to economic distress.

The article features the work of five different organizations in Cleveland, and explains how their approach could be a potent model of sustainable economic development for cities across the country.

Thanks so much,


Ben Wyskida
Publicity Director
The Nation ”

If you aren’t on the list, we still want to hear your views. Send me a note on your ideas and I will publish them. Email me: johnmac<at>

I hope to see the posts up soon. So far, only one of the other writers for this blog have committed (and even then only mildly so), I but I promise to have something up by the end of the week and I hope that the them will carry on through the end of February.

January 6, 2010

Going International and Other Updates

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 9:42 am

The Workers’ Paradise has a new contributing author on board. John A. Atherton from the United Kingdom has offered to cross post his blogs from UK Worker Co-operatives on this site to help reach co-operators in the US. We often think of the UK as being the Consumer sector, but they also have a growing worker co-operative movement.

This brings our author group to six (Bernard and Edgar from SF), Matt, Myself and Fred from Madison, and now John from the UK.

Do you have the inspiration, desire, to put your ideas out there? Join the conversation here. Whether it is a simple comment on an existing post or developing your own series, I hope that you will consider sharing with the rest of us. Fred recently started a neat discussion on the idea of neo-syndicalism that may have been lost over the holidays, but it is worthy of a fresh look. If you want to sign up, you can join as a subscriber by yourself. Then send me an email (johnamac<at> and let me know a bit about you and that you want to write. I maintain a light edit hand (mainly just to format and make sure that tags are in place).

I expect to do some more updating this year. As I noted in the comments on my most recent post, I think that a bibliography of relevant titles might be worthwhile. The US Federation has maintained a reading list at GoodReads, but repetition never hurts.

In any event, welcome John! We look forward to reading about the UK experience!

December 23, 2009

Dear Readers:

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 4:50 pm

I am sorry for missing my Monday Morning Post this week. I ran out of time. Fortunately, Fred Schepartz stepped into the void and provide three intriguing posts. I will start up again next Monday with the Identity series and follow that up with a review of 2009 and a plan for 2010.

I do want to take a moment to thank you for reading and spreading the word. At last count, I have readers in over 40 countries. I have enjoyed meeting some of you on Facebook and in person at the conferences!


August 17, 2009

The past, present and future of The Workers’ Paradise

Filed under: Site News — John McNamara @ 2:04 pm

I started this blog in 2006. My hope was to start a national discussion on the worker cooperative movement. The US Federation had just come into existence and was gearing up for the New York meeting to elect the permanent board of directors. The midwest coops (and Madison in particular) were starting to stir and wake. It seemed like a good time to try to broaden our debates beyond the workercoop listserv.

Over that time, some have piped in and made comments on posts–I started my journey through St. Mary’s and made the Hadj to the Mondragon Experience. I have tried to chronicle my journey and bring issues that I see every day as a cooperator to the fore. In that time, I had no real idea of how many readers were out there. With the exception of a few comments (and people at conferences introducing themselves as a reader) it has often seemed like a way for me to get thoughts out of my head rather than a discussion. I finally took the plunge and moved the blog from the diary like Livejournal to my own web site. This has allowed me to “see” who is reading and much, much more.

Calling All Writers!

Starting today, I am asking people interested in writing about worker coops to join me. If you scroll down the right hand column, you will see a link to register. simply sign up and you will be a “subscriber” then send me an email and ask to be an author.

Here is all that I ask:

  • No personal attacks on individuals or attacks on specific coops (if their is an ethical issue, please disguise the coop or people involved and make it hypothetical). You can, however, criticize public figures such as elected politicians.
  • Keep the subject and body related to workplace democracy, worker cooperatives, collectives and participatory democratic workplaces.
  • Be willing to respond to comments posted on the site (especially if it is your article mentioned in the comment).

Bernard has already signed on. I hope that we can get a few others. You can post daily if you would like or just once or twice a year. I hope that we can take this to a new level and develop a great place for worker cooperators to discuss the issues facing our cooperatives and our movement.

The Identity Statement Series

Sometimes, I realize, I go too long between posts. I am going to try to change that. Starting August 31, I am beginning a series of posts. The first series will be on the Cooperative Identity. Each Monday, I will a discussion about the values, ethics and principles of the cooperative Identity. It will start with the definition and conclude with proposals for additions and changes to the Identity statement. I will incorporate the USDA “user principles” as well as Mondragon’s principles (the three principles in addition to the ICA’s identity will receive their own post).

I expect this to be a 20-22 week series. Each discussion will include a brief history of the development of that part of the identity (the first will be a general discussion of why we have an identity statement). I will also discuss the debate over the different parts and then how it relates to worker cooperatives, collectives, and democratic LLCs.

I hope you join me in this series. After this one is done, I will come up with a series on Human Resources in worker coops. If you would like to send ideas for other series, drop me a line. If you want to write a series, sign-up and drop me a note.

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