The new cooperative, December 1970-January 1972

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For the business, nothing much changed when the leather shop became a co-operative. New craftsmen were welcome as before but now they were paid a percentage of the retail sales value of what they made and sold. Communal benefits, such as free lodging, were no longer offered. New craftsmen were not expected to become part of the Ragnarokr co-operative but were welcome to do so if they pleased and if the current members were willing to admit them. If they joined the co-op, they were expected to participate in the decision-making process and in running the shop. If they only sold their leather goods on consignment, they were treated as guest workers and were not expected to participate in running the shop. Skip and Judy O’Dell joined the co-op in January 1972 as did Colleen Anderson upon her arrival from California in February 1972. Janice Spellerberg and her friend Pat Ruoff (from Germany) began to consign work in August and in October Chris Risk, having finished building his home at the Frostpocket, also began to consign leather goods to Ragnarokr.

Until February 1973 the labor share of the retail sales price was 50% if the craftsman was a member of the co-op, that is, if the co-op supplied the tools, workspace, leather and supplies. If the craftsman supplied his own tools, leather and supplies he worked on consignment and received 75% of the retail sales price. Many craftsmen did both. They used co-op materials for some jobs and supplied their own for other jobs. Sometimes people who only sold on consignment were allowed to use the workbenches and the large equipment belonging to the leather shop. The shop’s machines included a shoe finishing line, a harness stitching machine and an assortment of specialized sewing machines and cutting tools. There was also usually space at the workbench for craftsmen from out-of-town and for those who needed a temporary work space.

In 1973, when the leather shop’s total sales were $18,528, 76% of its sales were co-op goods, 13% were consigned goods and 8% were jobbed goods. (Jobbed goods were items that the leather shop purchased for resale, mostly polish, wax and oils.) Between January and September 1973 the shop’s total sales were $13,897 with the following break down of expenses: advertising $68, shop maintenance $1,670, purchase of stock, consigned goods and supplies $6,971 and payments to co-op members $5,242. Earnings per individual were quite low. Between 1972 and 1977 Philip, a worker at the leather shop earned an average of only $1,322 per year. This was less than the wage of a part-time worker earning minimum wage. This figure did not include any benefits that he may have received such as free room and board and transportation.

After January 1972 the leather shop stopped the routine practice of paying for group expenses out of the cash drawer. Each craftsman kept a record of his production and took draws from his account as money was available. The shop continued to pay group expenses but only after a formal decision-making process involving the five or six principal members. Beginning around 1973 co-op craftsmen were scheduled to take turns managing the shop and whoever was scheduled to be in charge of the shop received either free or subsidized rent in the building at 33 Baldwin Street.

The narrative continues at Ragnarokr branches out, 1972-1974

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