First german hospital organized as a worker coop

Dear Richard Wolff, I just stumbled upon an article by Deutschlandradio. This article is about the first german hospital that is organized as a worker coop. It was voted for being the "most popular hospital of eastern germany" and the head of the hospital speaks of the workers as "her bosses". Even though workers are paid a little less than average wages, they are more satisfied than others because they have a feeling of meaning and participation. Unfortunately the article is in german only, I did not find an english source. If you like, I can translate the article for you. Thank you for your work, I am a long-time follower of your economic updates. Greetings from Munich, Germany Benjamin Helgert

Official response from submitted

To Benjamin Helgert: I would be very grateful if you could send us a translation as you suggest. Not only would that help to educate me, but I would then prepare a segment for my weekly radio and TV program, 'Economic Update," that now is broadcast on 75 radio stations and TV stations in New York and san Francisco areas reaching 1.5 million people weekly. Let me thank you in advance.

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  • Benjamin Helgert
    commented 2017-02-06 12:47:46 -0500
    Dear Richard,

    I just finished translating the report by Deutschlandradio. You can download the translated report here:

    There are a couple of footnotes and hyperlinks to clarify things and for convenience’s sake.

    Please let me know if the link is not working, if I should send you the translated report in any other way or if you have any questions about my translation.

    I am looking forward to hear from you.

  • Daryl MacFarlane
    commented 2017-02-04 10:57:31 -0500
    Response to Benjamin,

    Thank you for your clarification that the city own the other 49% of the shares while the workers own the 51%. I can now see how this would allow them to effectively operate as a worker cooperative. I definitely remember when Wolff mentioned how the labor party has a platform for the “right of first refusal” to allow workers to be the first ones to buy up capitalist institutions, whether they are bankrupt or not. I actually mention this idea pretty frequently to people now, because it’s a useful way to show how there are alternative ways to deal with crisis than bailing out banks and corporations. Let the failed capitalist institutions rot into the ground, and let the workers build worker-cooperatives, or ahem, ‘socialism’ in the ashes.
  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-02-04 10:20:49 -0500
  • Benjamin Helgert
    commented 2017-02-04 10:17:24 -0500
    Correction: the former private owners who held 50% of the shares. The owners did not “vanish” but the article says they “betrayed” the hospital and that it was illegal. I am not quite sure what actually happened but the hospital would have had to close if the workers did not step in.
  • Benjamin Helgert
    commented 2017-02-04 10:02:37 -0500
    Dear Daryl,

    although Google Translate got this part right, there is something missing which appears to be said in the audio version only: the 49% share is held by the city government.

    This reminds me of what Mr. Wolff said one of the british parties want, which IIRC is called “right of first refusal”. That is, if business owners intend to sell their business, the workers can opt to collectively buy the business. In case they do not have sufficient funds, the government will lend it to them. That is, not quite, but kind of what happened here.

    The owners of the hospital pretty much vanished illegally leaving the business behind. The workers then stepped in to obtain the majority of the shares.

    Thanks for your interest in this, I feel like sharing this story already payed off for me. :)

  • Daryl MacFarlane
    commented 2017-02-04 08:40:26 -0500
    A german friend of mine pointed out a key portion of the article for me.

    ""Wir haben 51 Prozent, wir sind Mehrheitsgesellschafter, deswegen, weil wir als Mitarbeiter, als Förderverein entscheiden wollten, in welche Richtung sich unser Krankenhaus entwickelt, weil wir wollen mit garantieren, dass die regionale Versorgung der Bevölkerung hier aufrechterhalten wird, auch durch unser kleines Krankenhaus der Grundversorgung. Wir wollen dafür sorgen, dass wir erhalten bleiben."

    which translates to (using google translate):

    “We have 51 per cent, we are majority shareholders, because we as employees, as a support association wanted to decide in which direction our hospital develops, because we want to guarantee that the regional supply of the population is maintained here, also through our small hospital Of the basic supply. We want to make sure that we are preserved.”

    So it turns out that the workers at the hospital have majority stocks. This is a positive development, but it still means that capitalist controls the other 49% of stocks. So a question i have is what route will the Workers take to cut the capitalist out of the decision making process so that they can get closer to operating like a true worker-cooperative? There are a couple ways i can imagine this being done. One, the workers privately vote on issues together, and then after the vote, they unify on the issue they collectively voted on, and thus they would have a coalition where the workers decisions always pass rather than the capitalist voting bloc. another way i can imagine it, is if the workers at the hospital write a by-law that completely excludes the capitalist who control only 49% of shares from the decision making process. Still, this is a positive development and it brings the hospital much closer to being a true worker-cooperative in the future.
  • Daryl MacFarlane
    commented 2017-02-04 07:29:29 -0500
    This is very uplifting news! I hope Wolff uses it in his monthly talk a week from now as one of his ‘uplifting stories’ for the month, unless he has something even better in mind. I think Richard Wolff can speak German and French fluently. If you do translate it into English, i would actually be personally appreciative, but its completely unnecessary for you to go through that level of effort just for me.
  • Daryl MacFarlane
    tagged this with good 2017-02-04 07:29:29 -0500
  • Benjamin Helgert
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-02-03 21:58:25 -0500