Worker-owned clothing business

This can be seen as the next step to the first clothing project I put on here. It is a larger-scale one which intends to produce clothes for the town you live in that uses no higher management system.

As always, the first step is to start small. It can be done from various homes with a sewing machine and the fabric needed. I would recommend making clothes that can be sold for more than the cheapest things. The reason for this is you won’t be able to make and sell t-shirts for £2 so this is not the market to compete with. More like items that sell for 10 or 20 pounds that you can make.

So, you will need to be able to compete with clothes that are imported from Asia but that the customers can still afford and buy because it is supporting local industry. You will need to find a designer, of course, and a way of buying cotton or other materials at a good price.

Then, once you have your designs in place and a few items made, you need to find somewhere that will buy them. For this you will need to work out the price you will sell them for so that the retailers will buy them and can sell them. It will probably be small retailers to begin with. Then you can see how sales go and try to find more retailers around your town and try to build up your output gradually.

Hopefully it would grow to become a stable industry but I would not recommend distributing your produce to other major towns. This is because it would be better if each town of any size has its own manufacturers producing for their own market. Collaboration, not competition. If you are working from a big town, you can sell in small nearby villages as well but maintain your own limits or in the future, competitive factories will be devouring each other, which is one reason why the free market is such a disaster.

I mentioned factories there, so let me explain how I would imagine it as a fully developed business.

You have a factory with plenty of sewing machines where maybe 100 people could work. The workers produce a variety of clothes that sell because the public supports local industry. There is no higher management as it is not necessary. The workers can run it themselves; they are the ones who started it and they know how it has developed. I would also recommend using pedal sewing machines to reduce the cost of electricity. Well-maintained machines are not difficult to use.

The income earned by the workers depends on the number of items they have made, not by the number of hours they work. This is important for a few reasons:

1 It gives them the impetus to create more if they want to earn more money.
2 They would also try to produce the clothes faster so they can earn at a better rate.
3 The workers can work when they want to. This leaves it open to many people, including students, who want to make a bit of cash if they need it. You need to buy some food but don’t have enough money? Work in the factory for a few hours, then. This system would also mean that the workers have good conditions because they choose when to work and it doesn’t need to rely on a set group of contracted workers. They get paid depending on the number of items that are made to a high standard; poorly sewn clothes can’t be sold so it is in the workers’ interests that they do their job well. Like I said, students can come in freely and (once they have been trained using scrap material) earn a few extra pounds when they need it.

As there are no bosses, the workers make democratic decisions. They can elect their own leaders if they wish but the leaders will not be bosses and not receive any more money. They can then choose their own working conditions. If they want to take a break, they can. If they want to listen to music while they work, they can. If they want to go home at half past two, they can.

You might be thinking that this sounds Marxist, communist or socialist. Call it what you like, the point is this gives power to the working people and they can create a stable business with no-one to tell them what to do. It is best to avoid labels wherever possible so just think of it as a self-managed business.

Regarding the payments, let’s say to make one shirt, the cost of materials is £1. The worker gets paid £4, it is sold to the retailer for £6 and they sell it for £10. Once it is sold to the retailer, there is no more income for the workers. You need to organise the pricing so that everyone can get paid, the cost of materials is covered and there is a little profit (the missing £1 in this example). This is to keep the business out of debt as it goes along. As it builds up, it can be used for equal bonus payments at the end of the year with some left over in the business account for in case of future financial difficulties.

I believe this would create a business where the people want to work there (because the conditions are excellent), it is open to a lot of people to work as they wish (more employment in the community) and the money that is earned stays in the community and becomes the workers’ purchasing power to use it again in the town (and hopefully support other local businesses).

 

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