Founded in 2016 Cogwork Consulting Group has been in steady operation for more than five years. Over those five years our yearly revenues have increased from ~$2,000/yr to ~$10,000/yr and we’re still steadily expanding and growing.
The original objective of the company was to allow for its founder, William Harris, to transition to it as a full time job but constraints of an existing full time job and other obligations makes this original objective all but impossible–the necessary amount of work needed to live solely off of the company would take more time per day than allowable.
In 2021 Cogwork Consulting began its restructuring as a de facto worker cooperative. The idea was simple enough: train and involve more people to allow for more work to be completed while enriching the worker’s lives a little bit more.
The Cooperative Structure
What is a cooperative?
A worker cooperative is a business structure where the people who perform the work are also owners of the business. They engage in workplace democracy where each worker is given one vote that they can use to express their personal desires for how the company is managed, the direction it should be taking, and even the managers who oversee business operations.
Worker ownership at Cogwork Consulting
Currently the business is a de facto worker cooperative. We’re transitioning to a worker owned cooperative entirely but during this transitionary period legal ownership is technically held by the founder, William Harris.
The future of worker ownership at Cogwork Consulting will give legal ownership and a single share of the company to qualified workers wherein they will function as actual shareholders of the business.
A “qualified employee” is generally someone who works for a minimum amount of time, isn’t on a time based probationary period, and is voted as a worker-owner by the existing worker-owners.
Workplace democracy is the ability of the workers to freely call for motions which allow for changes at the cooperative level at large. Cooperatives require consensus-based democracy in the workplace and in the event that a consensus cannot be met then a simple majority’s rule will be sufficient.
Workers will get to express their voices on subjects like pricing, cooperative distributions, use of general funds, and even who runs and manages the cooperative. This provides for the most meritocratic and open business structure.
How it works
Non-owner workers on a temporary probation aren’t given voting rights but can still participate and discuss in meetings where decisions need to be made. After a certain amount of work, training, and time with the cooperative the worker will be eligible to become a worker-owner of the cooperative upon approval of the existing worker-owners.
There are two primary types of voting bodies in the cooperative: the at-large worker-owners and the committees. At-large worker-owners are able to call for motions at any time to instigate a discussion and possible change. Voting for cooperative governance, specifically the managers/steerers, is done with the at-large class of voters. Managers are elected on terms of six months.
The committees function under unique rules.
Committees are the basic democratic foundation in the cooperative and everyone is in a committee the moment they start working for the cooperative.
Committees are formed based on each class of worker and being trained as that class of worker makes you automatically eligible for the committee. Only worker-owners retain voting rights in the committees but probationary workers are still able to participate in the discussion.
These subunits are formed to represent a union of a specific type of worker. For example: every Author is in the Author Committee. The Author Committee is tasked with coordinating the authors so that they can more properly express their concerns and objections specifically to the Authoring task. Committees represent the bargaining power of each worker as a more unified force so that their concerns can be better addressed.
How we work
Are you an employee?
No! But that’s a good thing! Employees are people who are paid a set wage for the work they do regardless of how productive they are. By law employees can be told when to work, how to work, and how long they must work.
The cooperative structure, especially this one, is more like an al la carte form of work: you don’t have a schedule, there’s no productivity requirements to meet, and you’re paid directly based off of the work you do.
If you want to work at 3 am while everyone else is asleep then that’s ok. If you just need a quick job to get a few hundred dollars because your furnace just went out and that’s ok. You want to be a power worker and do as much work as you can? That’s ok!
You’re an owner
The underlining mandate of cooperatives is worker ownership of their production organized in a collaborative way. Unlike exploitative models of employment where an employer can profit off of your work the cooperative model tries to maximize the amount of distribution workers get from each completed job.
This cooperative is made for the workers of the cooperative which means that every worker is expected to have an enthusiastic view of ownership in the cooperative. We do the best job we can do because it’s what’s best for the cooperative which benefits each worker.