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Ann Arbor collective brings the co-op model to Michigan’s tech sector

table of laptops
Marvin Meyer
Instead of bosses, Sassafrass has what they call worker/owners.


In most workplaces, people are expected to do what their boss asks of them. But some worker's cooperatives are challenging the traditional office hierarchy.

The Sassafras Tech Collective, based in Ann Arbor, is the only registered tech co-op in the state. 

Jill Dimond is the co-founder of Sassafras Tech Collective and Elizabeth Mitchell is a worker/owner at Sassafras. The two joined Stateside’s Cynthia Canty to discuss how their cooperative work place operates. 

After graduating from college, Dimond went to work at a tech company in Seattle where she experienced a great deal of workplace harassment. She left that company and went to graduate school to study gender harassment in technology. It was there that she learned about cooperative workplaces.

“I thought it was an opportunity to create a future that I wanted and to create a workplace that would be free of harassment, that would enable women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, to be able to work together," Dimond explained. 

Sassafras is a tech consulting firm. Instead of bosses, there are only worker/owners called members and prospective members. Currently, the co-op has five worker/owners and two prospective members. 

Credit Sassafras Tech Collective
Sassafras Tech Collective
The owner/workers of Sassafras Tech Collective

“I think it’s a little bit less stressful as a business owner when you know ‘Hey I’m working with a group of people, and we're in this together, and we're building something together,” Mitchell said. 

Listen above to hear about some of the projects Sassafras is working on, and how conflicts get resolved in a cooperative workplace. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Sophie Sherry. 

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