Saturday, April 26, 2008

Worker Cooperatives – Part 3

I apologize to my readers (what few there are) for the delay. I thought this post had loaded a while ago but it hadn't.

Someone once told me that they thought worker self-management could never succeed in either the restaurant or fast food industry. A little cheese shop in Berkeley, California is proving them wrong.

The Cheeseboard Collective originally opened in 1967 as a family-owned business of Elizabeth and Sahag Avedisian. A few years later the owners reorganized it into a collective with the hopes of living out their beliefs in social justice. In addition to being a cheese shop the Collective serves morning coffee and operate as a bakery. Later, in 1985 the Cheeseboard Pizza Collective was opened and operates independently of the original cheese shop.

The Cheeseboard Collective consists of a thirty members while the Pizzeria has twelve. The pay scale is the same for all of the workers and decisions are made in both using a direct democracy in which the members debate on such details as to whether or not to accept credit cards or to accept a new member. In neither the Cheeseboard nor the Pizzeria will you find either bosses or managers.

The workers of both the Collective and Pizzeria are all cross trained, which keep the employees engaged and allows them to rotate the various duties during the day. In addition, this gives the workers a flexibility that allows them to cover for each other and can make it easier to take time off for illness or vacation.

But one must ask about quality of the food. The Cheeseboard Collective was declared in 2006 by the USA Today to be one of the top ten pizzerias in the nation. Social justice and great food. What a wonderful combination.

To read more about the Cheeseboard Collective go to

The web site for the Cheeseboard Collective is

In the next installment of this series I plan to go to the other side of the world and show how a small cooperative in the Middle East is giving hope of peace and self-reliance to a war torn people.