Because it’s an intricate part of the landscape, Urbane Cyclist was also one of my destinations. My recent interactions with this shop have me personally renaming it to ‘Humane Cyclist’ because the staff have been so attentive to my exact needs.
Reba Plummer—a current Urbane Cyclist member—has her hand in several community activities. She’s on the Canadian Federation Board of Directors and is the Ontario Director of the Ontario Worker Co-Operative Federation. She’s a delegate for the Co-Operators Conference, Business Succession and Employee Ownership. Reba is passionate about worker’s co-ops, of which Urbane Cyclist is one.
There are three basic types of co-ops: producer co-ops (like Gay Lee Foods), consumer co-ops (like MEC), and worker co-ops. A worker co-operative is owned and democratically managed by its worker-owners with a strong social justice philosophy.
“We’ve been a co-op for fifteen years, and our first job is to give our members employment,” she’d explained. “I believe employee ownership is the way to go.” In the States, so many management companies control the stocks, and employees are often left with nothing when a big business decision is made. A co-op gives members a say and involvement in daily operations. Being a member of a worker’s co-op, though, means hard work.
“You can’t just be a worker here. You have to be an entrepreneur,” she stated emphatically. People want and need more money. How can we get there? You can’t just arrive and work nine to five: you must go the extra mile.”
The shop certainly has a co-op feel to it. At the back, there’s an enormous piece of butcher paper tacked to the wall, on which Urbane Cyclist’s mandate is inscribed. This inspiring mandate was the result of a recent members’ meeting, an attempt to improve working conditions for everyone.
And as if it hasn’t enough credibility already, I discovered just by chance that Urbane was the shop of choice for Jack Layton and Olivia Chow.