When Workers Become Managers

July 1 st 1988

A group of employees of a supermarket in North Adams, Massachusetts, have shown again that some workers are eager to tackle new challenges and to break with traditional labour-management relations.

When a local supermarket became part of a large chain a few years ago, a number of employees lost their jobs. Twelve of them decided to strike out on their own and launch a worker-owned, cooperative supermarket. Eventually seventeen employee-investors found a way to finance the lease of an empty supermarket, and they were in business. Now operating with fifteen employee-owners and forty other employees, the company is managed with a high degree of participation and cooperation.

Francis Schonfelder, the grocery manager of the store, claims there is "a lot more dedication and pride when you have a group sharing a common goal."

Customers praise the pleasant, helpful attitude of the staff, and their emphasis on "good old-fashioned personal service." The community has taken an interest in this unique enterprise of self-ownership and management. According to Mayor John J. Barrett, "The majority of the community is rooting hard for them to succeed."

One of the employee-owners, Kathleen Hoczela, explained: "Problems can arise, but there's no one trying to be lord and master looking over your shoulder, or the fear of being on the outside looking in. We've still got a rough road ahead of us," she concluded. "But the feeling is there and we're going to make it." (New York Times, June 12, 1988)

 

Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.

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