Participation and Productivity: a Comparison of Worker Cooperatives and Conventional Firms in the Plywood Industry  - CLEO Skip to main content


A perennial issue is the study of organizational behavior is the impact on productivity of participation by workers in a firm’s decisionmaking. The question has returned to the foreground is the recent debate over policies to increase U.S. productivity growth. A large literature is aimed at quantifying the impact of worker participation on productivity thought the results from this research fall somewhat short of being fully persuasive. There are several difficulties in this research, not least that worker participation can mean various things in different contexts.

At one extreme, workers may be consulted on a narrow range of issues, and the consultations may be designed more to give the appearance of involving workers in decisionmaking than to grant workers effective influence. The other extreme occurs when workers have full discretionary powers and both own and manage the enterprise they work in. If productivity impacts of participation are not visible when workers are the firm’s owners, they are less likely when workers participate to a much smaller extent. Therefore, this paper address the question of whether productivity differences are evident between conventional firms and worker cooperatives, which are firms owned and managed by their workers.

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