Keeping cool in the summer with employee ownership and workplace democracy

More than scones have been heating up at Flat Iron Cooperative, a worker-owned coffeehouse in downtown Bellows Falls.

In mid-July, with daily highs in the 90s, the afternoon heat started to become severe for workers and guests inside the cafe. Flat Iron had been running an A/C unit and fans in its ground-floor space in the historic wedge-shaped building, but the cafe still wouldn't cool to comfortable temperatures.

On July 21, with the weekend forecast showing no relief, the worker-owners announced their decision to temporarily reduce the cafe's weekend hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Impressed by this example of employee ownership in practice, we asked worker-owner Larisa Demos to share the story with us. Here's what Larisa said:

We decided to close early during the heat wave because it was becoming difficult to work. We do have an air conditioner and fans, but they weren't enough to keep us, the worker owners, comfortable.

As most workers in the food service industry, we are busy moving around, taking orders, making drinks and food, and working around equipment that gives off heat. We saw a post from a local food truck that provides some of our food that they were closing for the weekend because of the heat, and one of our members suggested we do the same. We all agreed that it was a great idea.

When we posted to social media that we were doing this, our consumer members and community supported the decision. They were happy that we made our needs a priority, and a few commented that they wished more businesses did the same. We are grateful for our supportive community and to share how co-ops support their workers' well-being.

We have since added a second air conditioner, and hope that this helps with making a more pleasant working environment for our staff and provides a welcome cooling space for our community.


We wanted to share this story because it demonstrates a key benefit of employee ownership when combined with workplace democracy, a benefit that may not be as easy to quantify as productivity, employee pay, or account balances. The Flat Iron worker-owners summed it up well in their announcement: So great to be a co-op and decide what is best for us, the workers.