April 17, 2014 
Workplace Change Project

Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado - Boulder | University of Puget Sound


Publications: Workplace Democracy and Participation

Greenberg, E. S. "Spillovers From Cooperative and Democratic Workplaces: Have the Benefits Been Oversold?" In Cooperation: The Political Psychology of Effective Human Interaction. Edited by Brandon A. Sullivan, Mark Snyder, and John L. Sullivan, 219-239. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.

Chapter (pdf)

Greenberg, E., Grunberg, L., & Daniel, K. (1996). "Industrial Work and Political Participation: Beyond Simple Spillover." Political Research Quarterly 49(2), 305-330.

Online Article

Abstract: We suggest that the "simple political spillover" hypothesis-that participation in decision making at work increases the probability of participating in politics outside the workplace-ought to be respecified in such a way that it takes into account: (1) the possible differential effects on political participation of direct and representational forms of decisional participation at work; (2) the possibility that the pathway between workplace and political participation is mediated by the former's impact on psychological outlooks; and 3) the possibility that participation in decision making in economically troubled enterprises may diminish political participation. Using a sample of 1,247 workers from producer cooperative, employee stock ownership, conventional union, and conventional non-union wood products mills, we show that this more complex spillover model gives us a better understanding of the linkages between workplace and political experiences.

Grunberg, L., Moore, S., and Greenberg, E. (1996). "The Relationship of Employee Ownership and Participation to Workplace Safety." Economic and Industrial Democracy 17(2), 221-241.

Online Article

Abstract: This article investigates whether enterprises with high levels of worker control are safer places to work in the matched conventional firms in the same industry. The results, based on comparisons of self-reports from 1,285 workers in four different kinds of enterprises in the wood products industry (producer coops, ESOPs, union and non-union), are disappointing for advocates of employee ownership. The coops and the ESOPs either did no better than the conventional enterprises on various safety indicators or actually had worse safety performances. Reasons for these results are discussed, particularly in the context of the precarious economic conditions these employee-owned firms find themselves in. The authors conclude that employee ownership of vulnerable enterprises may be hazardous for worker morale and worker safety.

Grunberg, L..(1991). "The Plywood Producer Cooperatives," International Handbook of Participation in Organizations, Vol. II, R. Russell and V. Rus (eds.). Oxford University Press.

Grunberg, L. (1986). "Safety, Productivity and the Social Relations in Production: An Empirical Study of Worker Cooperatives," International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, special issue on Work and Health [previous draft presented at the American Sociological Association meetings in Washington, DC, 1985].

Abstract: Periodically, over the last 150 years, social scientists and social reformers have considered worker cooperatives and their tantalizing possibilities, ie, that cooperatives would dissolve the debilitating conflicts that exist between capital and labor in conventional firms and produce a panoply of positive consequences, such as improving workers’ motivation and productivity by lessening job-related alienation. Many see benefits beyond the workplace - that political activism and egalitarian values would replace apathy and individualism, thus paving the way for the further democratization of society. However, these claims have been tempered by the disappointing historical record of worker cooperatives. Considered here is the possibility that democratically owned and controlled enterprises might overcome the contradiction between productivity and safety that is apparent in conventional capitalist firms. However, comparison of worker cooperatives and conventional capitalist firms in the Pacific Northwest plywood industry further punctures the expectations attached to worker cooperatives, since the cooperatives are shown to have worse productivity and safety records than their conventional counterparts. Reasons for the surprising findings are developed along the lines of the degeneracy thesis advanced by those early foes of worker cooperatives, Beatrice & Sidney Webb. It is argued that increasing reliance on hired labor in the cooperatives has created a hybrid form of organization, in which capitalist and cooperative social relations coexist uneasily, possibly resulting in lower productivity and higher accident records. More sober assessment of the potential of worker cooperatives in the current SE context is needed.

Greenberg, E. (1986). Workplace Democracy. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Abstract: The concept of workplace democracy has long been vitally important to theorists and activists of the democratic Left. The author here tests some of the claims made for this system, asking: Do such alternative forms of work organization really decrease workers' sense of alienation? Does participation in a democratic, cooperatively run business encourage political participation? Does such a workplace foster class consciousness as a strategy for superseding capitalism? He looks first at the plywood cooperatives of the Pacific Northwest, providing a rich description of working life in these mils. He then compares the results-which in general do not support the claims made for workplace democracy-with analyses of notably successful experiments: The Israeli kibbutzim, cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain, and worker self-management in Yugoslavia. He concludes that the effect of democratic institutions in the workplace will differ greatly depending on the political, economic, and ideological contexts, and he addresses the question of when the workplace is likely to encourage social change and when it will tend simply to affirm the status quo.

Greenberg, E. (1983). "Representative and Direct Democracy in Self-Managed Enterprises." In Hank Levin and Robert Jackall. Worker Cooperatives in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. 171-214.

Abstract: Using interview and survey data collected from cooperative and conventional firms in the Pacific Northwest plywood industry, this study concludes that, under certain conditions, direct and indirect/representative democratic institutions can coexist and enrich one another, each compensating for some of the short-comings of the other. The study concludes that some combination of these two forms-generally interpreted as opposed types of democratic practice-is probably necessary in any sizable work institution committed to self governance.

Greenberg, E. (1983). "Context and Cooperation: Systematic Variation in the Political Effects of Workplace Democracy." Economic and Industrial Democracy 4(2), 191-223.

Online Article

Abstract: In this article, an argument is made for greater attention to contextuality in the study of workplace democracy and self-management. The central theme is that general statements about the political effects of such workplace arrangements are untenable; they must, instead, be grounded in historically specific political-economic settings. The various political effects of workplace democratization are then explored across a range of such contexts, identified as unmediated market capitalist societies; mediated market capitalist societies; settings of revolutionary upheaval; and post-revolutionary societies. The article concludes by suggesting that workplace democratization generates objectively reactionary political effects in unmediated market capitalist societies like the United States.

Greenberg, E. (1981). "Industrial Democracy and the Democratic Citizen." The Journal of Politics 43(4), 964-981.

Online Article

Abstract: The analysis asks whether participation by workers in job-related decision-making fosters values and skills that make participants more knowledgeable, interested, and socially responsible citizens in the political arena outside the workplace. Data was collected from workers in worked-owned and managed plywood cooperatives and from conventionally organized companies, by interview and mail survey. Findings suggest that workers in the more participatory environment are involved and knowledgeable about their companies, skilled in a broad range of activities tied to the management of their companies, and more involved in civic and public affairs in their communities. Contrary to the expectations of democratic theorists, however, their involvement in politics outside the walls of their companies was not more "public spirited" than the comparison group of workers.

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