The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, the umbrella organization for a group of four (soon to be six) worker-owned bakeries
in the San Francisco Bay Area, took its name as well as its business
plan from Mondragon. The companies share technical and financial
resources — as well as proprietary recipes — and a portion of profits
goes to funding new enterprises. The notion of cooperative artisan
bakeries sounds quaint, but the group is thinking beyond the breadbox.
"We consider this the very beginning phase," says Melissa Hoover of
Arizmendi, who is also executive director of the U.S. Federation of
Worker Cooperatives. She says the companies plan to develop more
businesses and are researching possibilities "along the supply chain":
trucking, retail, health and wellness, as well as a funding vehicle
like Caja Laboral.
Arizmendi now employs 125 workers and annually generates $12 million in
sales. Despite the economic downturn, the businesses remain strong and
poised for growth. This in part owes to the collective decision-making
model, says Hoover. "Worker-owned cooperatives are an innately
conservative form. We didn't overleverage ourselves."