Olympia Food Co-op

While this blog mainly focuses on worker co-ops, I will be making a few exceptions during National Co-op Month this year. I am following the daily Facebook posts that we put out on NWCDC’s social media and that will include co-ops from other sectors.

However, Olympia Food Co-op also qualifies as a democratic workplace!


A mural on the Olympia Food Co-op West Side store honoring Leonard Peltier.

As with a number of west coast consumer co-ops, Olympia is managed by a staff collective of about 80 people using consensus decision-making.

80 is a bit big for a collective, in my opinion, especially with three work sites (two stores and an admin office). However, they seem to make it work and have an extensive committee structure that likely helps the operations move along. The long term success of Oly Food Co-op (42 years and counting) demonstrates that command and control hierarchies aren’t the only way of doing things. People don’t need bosses, there is nothing natural about creating power structures.

One of the ways that this shows up in the consumer experience is through the boycott policy. Some co-ops require that a certain % of the membership petition to create a vote for a boycott. This is an onerous process that can mean having to reach hundreds if not thousands of people and there often isn’t an easy way to even find other members. At OFc, all it takes is a letter to staff and then a staff process takes over and considers the boycott request within the context of the co-op’s mission statement and other factors. If they boycott isn’t joined, people will have an explanation, not a bureaucratic response that the threshold of signatures wasn’t met.

Okay, almost through a week! Thanks for tuning in. . . . and as always feel free to comment!


About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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1 Response to Olympia Food Co-op

  1. Pingback: Sustainability-Coops Leading the Way | The Workers' Paradise

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