Employee Ownership and Employee Involvement at Work: Case Studies: Volume 18

Cover of Employee Ownership and Employee Involvement at Work: Case Studies

Table of contents

(11 chapters)

The closure of Fagor Electrodomésticos in October 2013, the most iconic cooperative in the Mondragon Group, not only cast doubt on the economic and social management of the cooperative itself but also called into question the very viability of the overall cooperative model. In addition to describing the evolution of this cooperative in its last years in business, this chapter offers a comprehensive review of the mechanisms of inter-cooperation in the Mondragon Group and the way in which they were applied in the crisis at Fagor Electrodomésticos.

The methodology applied is a qualitative research methodology mainly based on semi-structured interviews.

The main conclusion of the chapter is that the closure of the cooperative was largely caused by market conditions. The chapter also highlights the validity of the mechanisms of inter-cooperation applied in managing employment which contributed to a rapid resumption of the employment situation of surplus personnel from Fagor Electrodomésticos.

The main contribution of this chapter comprises a detailed description of the methods used by the Mondragon Group to manage employment adjustment at the time of closure of its largest industrial cooperative during the recent general economic crisis (2008–2014), and thus avoid large-scale unemployment, its concommitant problems, and deeper deterioration of social capital in the Mondragon area. Further research is needed to compare this process with other international experiences based on cooperation.


To examine perceptions of organizational atmosphere and joint ownership in a firm in which capital ownership is broadly shared among members of its work force.

A questionnaire was administered with a sample of 123 people from a Mondragon cooperative firm, ULMA Architectural Solutions, and responses were analyzed using principal components’ analysis and regression techniques.

Two factors are found to play especially important roles in explaining perceptions: (1) work and management/supervisory practices, especially those relating to communication and participation in decisions in respondents’ immediate work area, and (2) job type (blue collar vs. white collar).

The study confirms earlier research on the broad centrality of participation and related practices to perceptions of work and the organization in employee ownership settings, while findings focus on the immediate work environment and relationships with immediate managers for blue-collar workers.

These are closely related to the research implications, underlining the importance to worker-owners, in manufacturing contexts, of communication and involvement in decisions in their immediate work environment.

Widespread concerns about inequality, poor working conditions, and competitiveness suggest the importance of investigating enterprises with broadly shared capital ownership, enterprises that tend to address these concerns.

The chapter reinforces the fundamental roles of information-sharing and participation in enterprises with shared ownership, while making key distinctions between shopfloor and office workers experiences and perceptions.


The purpose of this research was to investigate how Mid South Building Supply, a 100% employee-owned company, survived the Great Recession. Research has found that employee-owned companies are more likely to survive recessions than other companies. Why this happens was unclear. Thus, this research was conducted to learn why this might happen.

The case study approach was chosen to uncover the causes because this approach has played a significant role in uncovering organizational phenomena. Moreover, the industry was chosen because of the vulnerability of firms in it to recessionary forces.

Mid South uses practices that enhance both financial and psychological ownership. Prior research has suggested that both are important.

Case study research is limited because only a single frim is investigated. Thus, additional studies need to be performed to confirm the results.

Although this is a single case study, the practical implication is that enterprises that want to improve their probability of surviving should apply the findings of this study.

Firms that provide employment stability to employees are more likely to survive. In turn, research would suggest that this is associated with greater family and community stability.

Whereas prior studies have used across-industry data to find that employee-owned firms are more likely to survive recessions than others, what such firms do differently was unclear. A literature review failed to reveal a prior study that looked at the internal practices that may cause this to happen.


The purpose of this chapter is to provide fresh evidence and insights on a causal link from product market competition to the nature and scope of employee involvement using a case study of two Japanese manufacturing firms.

The firm’s investment decision on two kinds of innovation activities, discrete innovation and continuous improvement, is likely to be a key driver for the adoption (or lack thereof) of the high-performance work system (HPWS) and employee involvement programs. As product market competitionintensifies (e.g., rising international competition and weakening exclusivesupplier–manufacturer relationships), the firm is likely to shift its innovation strategy from bottom-up continuous improvement activities, which almost always accompany employee involvement, to top-down discrete innovation activities, which downplays employee involvement. Such a shift of the firm’s innovation strategy results in declining employee involvement.

This study will inform policymakers, practitioners of management, and the public about the importance of paying particular attention to the firm’s innovation strategy in understanding the interplay between product market competition and the HPWS and employee involvement.

In spite of the rich body of evidence on the effects of HPWS, there are at least two relatively unexplored yet potentially important questions: (i) The conditions under which the HPWS is best introduced and best sustained; and (ii) in what way the HPWS will need to evolve when external environments change. Our findings fill this important gap in the literature by providing novel evidence and insight on the causal link from product market competition to employee involvement.


This chapter examines the labor-empowerment potential of emerging taxi driver cooperative-union partnerships. Cooperative-union partnerships can adopt differing stances toward the virtue of waging broad-based, class-conscious conflict against economic elites to win economic change, as opposed to the virtue of small-scale and practical steps to improve the immediate conditions of individual “job-conscious” workers. This case study utilizes a “class consciousness” versus “job consciousness” framework to examine a recent immigrant taxi driver union-cooperative partnership.

Case study of taxi driver organizing in Denver (CO), utilizing narrative inquiry, and survey and interviews with 69 drivers.

The US tradition of accommodational job consciousness continues to influence union and cooperative leaders. Among Denver’s taxi cooperatives, an emphasis on accommodational job consciousness, bereft of class perspectives, has undermined a narrative promoting worker solidarity or encouraging workers to engage in social justice campaigns for immigrant workers. The consequence has been to weaken the transformational potential of taxi driver activism.

Findings based on a single case study need to be confirmed through additional research.

Cooperative-union partnerships that adopt a class-conscious political approach, including leadership development opportunities, a “labor empowerment curriculum, and partnerships with broader social movements, are a promising alternative to narrowly tailored “job conscious” organizing strategies.

Immigrants are increasingly forming worker cooperatives, and the recent Denver taxi driver union-cooperative is one of the largest taxi cooperatives in the country. Current research on the labor empowerment consequences of these emerging immigrant cooperatives is sparse.


This chapter and case study examine how and which structured elements of an employee-owned business contribute to building the economic security and asset wealth of the lowest-wage and skilled employees of the firm. It paves the way for greater understanding about how intentionally structured workplaces can address wealth inequality and economic security through income and non-income opportunity systems.

The study draws upon qualitative interviews with four members of management, two plant managers, and 12 low-income employee-owners. Company documents and confidential employee data were provided for direct research analysis. Interviews took place at company locations, and covered employees from all shifts.

Employee ownership structures provide an important tool for advancing policy support and management practices to rebuild the wealth building benefits of work for low-income workers.

To ensure confidentiality, the study is anonymized and does not directly draw on the worker-owner interviews. This limits the opportunity to demonstrate the effect of structure on workforce; nonetheless, the empirical data tell an important story.

Expanding wealth inequality and economic precarity among low- and moderate-income workers has raised broad debates about how shifts in the structure of work, through new business, capital, and ownership structures, may be contributing to these social problems.

The employee benefits of employee ownership are not fully studied. This case contributes to understanding how employee ownership may reduce gender and racial wealth gaps, build family well-being, and become a model for structuring opportunity for those traditionally left out of the economic mainstream.


This case explores the context in which decisions related to the composition of the board of directors are made at a company with a strong, participatory culture and strong values of accountability, responsibility, and community.

This case study seeks an in-depth understanding of a 100% ESOP company’s (Carris Reels, Inc.) values, culture, and processes related to broad-based employee participation in decision-making and governance of the company. Data were collected from formal and informal interviews and discussions with Carris Reels’ employees, observation, and company archival data, including newsletters, meeting minutes, and announcements.

Goals may be sufficiently different at highly participatory, majority employee-owned ESOP companies such that regulatory guidelines for board structure for public or privately held companies that are not employee-owned should be evaluated in the context of that company’s stakeholders.

A trend toward external members for boards of directors should be given careful consideration in the case of majority ESOP companies whose employee-owned and governed status is central to the company’s vision.

This case study provides an in-depth look at a company’s board of directors’ composition-related decision-making in the context of broad-based participatory processes and the desire to maintain a profitable and fully employee-owned and governed enterprise.


The purpose of this research was to investigate a successful company, Atlas Container Corporation, that practices the values of egalitarianism, democracy, mutuality, and transparency. Moreover, this research sought to identify the human resource policies and practices (HRPP) used to reinforce these values and create a distinctive culture.

An ethnographic approach was used to produce a case study. Interviews, observations, archives, and documents were all part of the collected data.

The HRPP were distinctively different from the normal practices in the industry. Thus, these differences appeared to explain its success.

While this case study focused only on a single organization, it provides an illustration of the importance of reflecting the organization’s culture through its HRPP, and of how they could operate synergistically for optimal impact.

This case illustrated how a company following a set of HRPP contrary to industry norms could succeed. In addition, it pinpointed some areas where HRPP either reduced costs or made the company more responsive to customer needs.

This case illustrated that a company can be both humanistic and efficient. Moreover, it demonstrated a number of ways that the financial success of the company could be shared with its employees.

A review of the literature found that companies that practiced a progressive set of HRPP and made decisions based on democratic principles are rare. Thus, knowledge of such a company should be valuable.

Cover of Employee Ownership and Employee Involvement at Work: Case Studies
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Advances in the Economic Analysis of Participatory & Labor-Managed Firms
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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