Over two years ago, Shareable reported on the birth of the Greek manufacturing cooperative Vio.Me. The cooperative has thrived since, but now the question is, for how long?
In February 2013, former employees of the Vio.Me. took control of their poorly managed factory which had been abandoned by the owners after going out of business. What happened after the occupation has been watched by worker cooperatives around the world as the occupied factory thrived and became profitable. They achieved success despite the fact that Vio.Me. has been unable to gain legal status to operate, which they have repeatedly asked the new SYRIZA government for, but without success.
Vio.Me. has survived by activating a vast solidarity network that has been gaining strength throughout Greece (and Europe) during the years of austerity. Supporters of the occupation can buy the Vio.Me. products all over Greece and beyond as they are sold by factory workers, activists, and sympathetic stores.
Whereas the factory used to produce industrial minerals, now, under worker control, they have decided to produce organic, eco-friendly cleaning products. Everything from window cleaner to laundry detergent, which consumers can buy in shops in solidarity with Vio.Me. since there is no way for the cooperative to legally invoice stores due to their ongoing legal battle for legitimacy (transactions are in cash or Faircoin).
Although the factory is 400 miles away from Athens, the products can be found in local shops. The solidarity network works on trust and transports the goods for Vio.Me. The workers are optimistic about their future. They know that their occupation and horizontal decision making can show the world how production can be efficient "without bosses".
However, it's not all smooth sailing for Vio.Me. They are due to be evicted from their factory next month because the Greek state plans to auction off the property. The workers do not plan to leave. They are determined to get new legislation in for them and others like them, legislation that will allow worker-controlled cooperatives to operate within the law. Due to their particular situation, it is impossible for them to incorporate legally, though many political parties have offered them deals in exchange for political support, offers which they have refused on ethical grounds.
Although the current factory eviction is imminent (November 26th), Vio.Me. workers are adamant about staying; there are protests and demonstrations in support of the factory happening all over Greece and throughout Europe. They have launched an appeal to their supporters on their blog, which they update regularly and in several different languages including English.