“Over the next twenty years, the cooperative they created faced its share of organizational and financial struggles, and they made some modifications, both to Burley’s original product line and to its organizational structure. Through it all, the cooperative’s worker-owners made every attempt to remain true to its fundamentals — making bicycling products under conditions of equal pay, equal ownership, equal distribution of profits, and equal voice in management, while retaining a social and environmental conscience. Grounded in these fundamentals, Burley grew to become a model of successful workplace democracy and one of the United States’ largest manufacturing cooperatives, with one hundred full, voting members and nearly $10 million in annual sales.
“Such prominence, however, was not Burley’s goal, and it arrived surprisingly quickly. In fact, it came as such a surprise that the cooperative struggled to accommodate the growth. In that struggle, Burley failed to anticipate and understand the end of its growth spurt or the fundamental changes occurring in the surrounding economy. In 2006, after nearly thirty years of cooperative manufacturing, Burley was on the brink of collapse as its competitors moved manufacturing to unregulated and lower-cost markets overseas.”