This article is part of a series about the workers’ revolution which led to the Canary becoming the Canary Workers’ Co-op. You can read all the articles in the series here and visit our new, dedicated page here.
This week, we are relaunching the Canary as a worker-owned cooperative.
This means that all decisions will be made by the workers from now on. There will be no bosses, and everyone will get paid the same for a day’s work. We aim to be an example of radical democracy in action.
The Canary has adopted a ‘sociocracy’ structure. Click here to read more about sociocracy.
It should have been like this from the beginning
Of course, this is the way it should have been from the beginning. It’s shocking that a media organisation set up to do “courageous”, “campaigning journalism” on the side of the oppressed was set up with a rigid hierarchy and inequality in pay and conditions between the workers and the bosses.
The reason we’re still here is because we all believe in the need for a radical media that isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, amplify the voices of the oppressed, and envision a world beyond capitalism and the state. However, radical media needs to be a microcosm of the world in which we want to live. It needs to be worker-run and truly democratic.
Embodying the change we want to see
Over the last six months we have been organising hard for control of our workplace. It wasn’t easy to achieve. In fact, it’s taken a workers’ revolution, but now we can honestly say that we are striving to embody the change we want to see.
If we want to see revolutionary change in society, we first need to take back control of our lives, our livelihoods, and our workplaces to create an infrastructure that can be a resource for movements struggling for change. We hope the Canary can play an important role in providing a platform for a radical politics that seeks to transform society in a holistic way, not just to elect a social democratic leader while leaving the rotten state system in place.
Here’s how the way we work is going to mirror our vision for change.
A cooperative structure
The Canary Workers Co-op (CWC) has been set up to create a co-operative media platform which will be run by its members in a radically democratic way.
That means that all of our decisions will be made by the workers themselves. UK law requires us to have directors, but our directors don’t have any more say in decision-making than the rest of us.
Because we’re registered as a cooperative within UK law, our primary rules need to be written in a certain way, and meet certain criteria. However, we want the way we operate in practice to mirror a deeper radicalism and militancy. As such, the way that the Canary operates as a co-op – and a sociocracy – will be an unfolding process defined by the decisions we make day to day as a collective. We will work hard to ensure that what we create is an empowering expression of our collective vision.
The decisions we make – and which actually govern the way we work together – will form our secondary rules.
With cooperative principles
The Canary Workers’ Co-op is guided by the cooperative principles. This means that:
- We are owned and controlled by and for our members. Everyone who works at the Canary is a member of the co-op.
- We’re democratic, and all our members have an equal say in how we’re run and how we spend our money.
- We’re committed to providing education and training to our members. We believe in helping our members develop for the good of the co-op, and for the good of the movements for change that we are a part of.
- We’ll work with other co-ops, and with wider communities, to achieve our aims.
A commitment to struggle against hierarchy
Under the old regime, the Canary‘s bosses got paid significantly more than the workers (in fact, the difference was a lot more than we were led to believe. When we began to take control, this was one of the very first things that we changed. Now everybody – from writers to editors, copy-editors, designers and video-journalists – gets exactly the same hourly rate, which is currently set at £12 an hour (a rate that we dearly hope we can increase in the future).
Decisions were previously made at the Canary in a deeply hierarchical manner. Important choices about finances and strategy were made between a few bosses, and decisions about our content and direction were passed down from the ‘leadership team’ in a unilateral manner, with only the occasional half-hearted nod to a collective process. This has already begun to change: since we wrested control from the bosses, we have made decisions collectively through discussions in general meetings. Problems are solved through discussion and agreement, not by majority rule.
We know that we have only just embarked on the path towards creating a radically democratic decision-making process. We’re the first to admit that we have a long way to go on that journey, but we have already established that decisions are taken by everyone, and that everyone’s voice should be included.
Over the last six months, we have been discussing how we can implement a sociocracy system in the Canary. As of today, this is the system that we will use to run our organisation.
According to the Sociocracy for All website, sociocracy is:
a decentralized system of authority and intentional processes to improve our decisions and processes over time into a governance system that supports effective and efficient process while increasing connection, listening and co-creation among members.
This means that a lot of the decision-making power in the Canary will be devolved to working groups – known as ‘circles‘ – which have a remit to decide certain things. Each circle has a delegate, tasked with communicating with the rest of the organisation.
This kind of decentralised structure is nothing new in anti-authoritarian organising. Things like it have been used by militant and revolutionary movements for many generations, but the clear structure set out by Sociocracy for All is really useful for our purposes. Creating decentralised power within the Canary means we can take into account everyone’s views and work towards a shared aim without the potentially cumbersome process of making every decision as a group of fifteen workers.
Within our sociocracy structure, all major decisions will be made by consent. If a decision does not gain consent, then it won’t go ahead. Instead, we will try to understand each other’s objections, and work out a new proposal.
The start of a journey
We understand that this process is unlikely to be a smooth one. And there will be a real need to work out how to make sure we listen to everyone and take into account everyone’s needs during times of disagreement. But we’re proud to be adopting a structure which has collective decision-making and non-hierarchy at its core.
The Canary Workers’ Co-op doesn’t only want to exist for the good of its members. We want to be part of building power from the bottom up and outgrowing our current unequal and unjust system. We want to collaborate with other co-ops – particularly radical media cooperatives – and social movements to further this aim.
We’re proud to launch the Canary Workers’ Co-op today: we feel we can finally begin to live up to the values that we write about on this site. We hope this can be the start of a new journey, and that our co-op will be a vital part of the radical media ecology in the UK. We intend to amplify the voices of the oppressed, and be a platform that demands and enables change.
Written by Tom Anderson
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.