Employees enjoy equality at 3rd Street Bakery

Positively Third Street Bakery's employees enjoy working in an environment where they all have equal status.  The bakery is located at 1202 East 3rd Street in Duluth. Photo Credit: Gram Krause-Lyons. Every employee of Positively 3rd Street Bakery walks into work each day knowing they have no one to answer to but themselves. This business has been successfully functioning since 1983, but it has never placed one person in charge of another.

All the employees share the benefit of equal status within the business. This bakery functions as a worker owned cooperative, where everyone is the boss.

The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives defines a worker cooperative as “an entity that is owned by its members: it operates for the benefit of its members and it is controlled by these members.”

At Positively 3rd Street Bakery the workers have to collaborate each day to make sure all the tasks get completed. The bakery’s workers are not based on a hierarchical status. Instead every person is on the same level.

Dan Proctor, a current employee, said, “In a cooperative you have to have your own direction. Your own energy to make sure things are done.”

The workers at Positively 3rd Street enjoy the benefit of equal status, but they also mention that it is not without its challenges.

Paul Steklenski, the founder of the bakery, said, “The decision making process is so laborious.”

Since everyone has a say it gets difficult for concise decisions to be made.

Proctor said, “To achieve work place democracy we have monthly meetings, but for the day to day stuff you can deal with it on a daily basis and not wait until the meeting.”

The workers constantly have to act as a team and work on multiple facets of the business.

Current employee, Jeff Greensmith, said, “The worker ownership really adds an interesting piece to it. You’re actually on the floor, you’re actually doing that everyday menial task. And putting out several hundred loaves of bread a day is really tedious. But as being an owner you know what it’s like to work there but you also know what its like to own it.”

Positively 3rd Street Bakery does not function through employees, but it functions through a team of business owners all working for the same cause.

Have you worked in an environment like this? What was your experience like? Did it work? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment form below.

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