Diversity Regimes in Worker Cooperatives: Workplace Inequality Under Conditions of Worker Control - CLEO Skip to main content


Two major shifts in contemporary work organizations—“employee participation” and “diversity management”—have typically been studied in isolation from one another. Building on theoretical work by Acker (2006a,b), we ask how the interaction of these two constructs has affected the pursuit of workplace democracy at two worker cooperatives in Northern California. Using qualitative methods, we find that distinct “diversity regimes” have emerged at these establishments, substantially affecting the configurations of inequality that evolved. We distinguish two types of diversity regimes—“utilitarian” and “communitarian”—which operate either to obscure the workings of inequality or to foster attention to their presence. Our results suggest that how sociodemographic differences are managed has material consequences for the development of egalitarian structures at work.