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= an example of Worker-Owned Tech Collectives


By Brian Van Slyke:

"Isthmus, which began in 1980, is an engineering and manufacturing cooperative based in Madison, Wisconsin. Before starting the co-op, the four founding members left another company that treated them poorly and broke numerous promises. After trying to figure out how to make it on their own, the disgruntled, out-of-work employees settled on cooperation. To them, a co-op was the best structure that would ensure the business operated fairly, preventing repeats of the outrages that caused them to leave their former jobs.

Over the years, Isthmus has had great success with the model, and the democratic structure has given worker-owners the room to grow in ways that likely wouldn’t be the reality in typical workplaces.

“Most people are used to just being employees at other companies,” says Ole Olson, an engineer and worker-owner at Isthmus. “When given the responsibility and power to make their own decisions, it is amazing how some people change.”

“We work with several fortune 500 companies,” Olson adds. “When they first learn of us they don’t understand (or aren’t willing to accept) how our structure works. Once we have them as a customer—they are hooked.” (