- Equal Exchange was born in a tiny office on Albany Street in Boston, Mass., in 1986. We now have offices in West Bridgewater, Mass., St. Paul, Minn., and Portland, Ore.; a cafe in Boston, and an espresso bar in Seattle, Wa.
- We officially became a co-op in 1994, with 20 worker-owners. We now have over 100 worker-owners.
- A worker-owner has completed at least one year of employment, has been voted in by the co-op membership, completed the Equal Exchange curriculum, and paid their membership share.
Our compensation philosophy requires that our policies and practices "reflect our commitment to equality and economic justice through wage solidarity." Our pay ratio in 2014 was 3.43-to-1. As a comparison, according to the AFL-CIO the average ratio of CEO pay to that of the typical worker is 343-to-1.
- We have an education committee that oversees various educational programs, including a mentor program, a weekly educational hour called "Exchange Time," and a curriculum that each new employee is encouraged to complete.
- We try to support co-ops whenever possible. We helped start the Principle Six: Cooperative Trade Movement with food co-ops around the country.
- Worker-owners elect the Board of Directors and fill six of the nine Board seats. The Board in turn is responsible for hiring and supervising management. This makes a circle of accountability, with everyone being accountable to someone else.
- Each worker-owner is awarded one vote and one share in the company, no matter his or her position.
- We were named one of World Blu's Most Democratic Workplaces four years in a row.
Every year in the first week of May, which is when we celebrate Equal Exchange's birthday, the worker-owners here at Equal Exchange hold our Annual Meeting of the Co-op. This all-day affair serves as an opportunity to not only review the successes and challenges from the previous year, but also to hold our annual elections.
October 6, 2011