CollectiveCopies, Amherst, MA
One employee summed-up the problems of the late Gnomon Copies in this way: "The space was tiny, the air quality was terrible, the pay was lousy, the machines didn't work half the time, and management just didn't care." In mid 1982, workers at the shop decided to take steps to change the situation; they organized; they unionized. By the end of that summer, they walked out.
The strike dragged on through the fall, with workers collecting strike pay — a fraction of their already low pay. One employee got through the season on the fish he was able to catch from local streams and by frugally darning his socks on the picket line. The rest of the striking workers found other forms of local sustenance; the Amherst community solidly supported the strike, local residents joined the picketers and boycotted the shop, and a handful of area journalists made sure the strike wasn't neglected in the press.
A resolution squeaked through just barely ahead of the winter. Then, days after negotiations were successfully concluded, Gnomon was given an eviction notice. By mid-December, the strike was finished . . . and so, it appeared, was the shop.
Then, in march of 1983...
a new copy shop opened in Amherst. Pooling their skills & experience, the old Gnomon workers launched their own shop above Wooton Books. The space was tiny, the air quality still wasn't great and the copiers sometimes seemed nearly as close to collapse. But the shop that emerged from the preceding autumn's strike was owned by its workers and run collectively.
Twenty five years later, Collective has changed: entirely digital and with triple the original staff and three stores around the valley, the business has thrived: the community has come to rely on our quality and civic involvement, and the workers benefit from a workplace that values and rewards our work. What has not changed is our commitment to our founding values and to providing an example that those values work.
Collective Copies founded as a worker-owned collective co-op in 1983.
What's the difference between a co-op and a collective?
Who's the manager in a collective?
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