Businesses Recovered by the Workers in Brazil: outcomes of a national survey

Flávio Chedid Henriques, Vanessa Moreira Sígolo, Sandra Rufino, Fernanda Santos Araújo, Vicente Nepomuceno, Mariana Baptista Girotto, Maria Alejandra Paulucci, Thiago Nogueira Rodrigues, Maíra Rocha Cavalcanti and Maurício Sardá


The present article synthesizes the data collected by research at the national level in which researchers from ten Brazilian universities participated, joining forces to learn about all the cases of businesses recovered by their workers (BRW) in Brazil. According to Ruggeri,1 the recovery of businesses by workers is a social and economic process that presupposes the existence of a prior capitalist business whose bankruptcy or economic inviability led to the struggle of the workers to self-manage it.

The first known cases of business recovery in Brazil date back to the 1980s. But it is during the 1990s, in the context of an economic crisis, that a significant rise in the number of BRWs was observed. Accordingly, recovery is presented as a way of reacting to and resisting the closure of many businesses and the subsequent loss of jobs.

It was in this process of struggle, connection and achievements of the workers that the first social organizations with the objective of helping the workers take over bankrupt businesses arose. In 1994, the Associação Nacional de Trabalhadores e Empresas de Autogestão [National Association of Workers of Self-Managed Businesses], or ANTEAG, emerged. Then, in 2000, the union of metallurgical and chemical factories organized UNISOL Cooperativas (Unity and Solidarity of Cooperatives of São Paulo). With the support of the Central Única de los Trabajadores (CUT) and the Agency of Development Solidarity (ADS/CUT), Union and Solidarity of Cooperatives and Enterprise of Social Economy of Brazil (UNISOL Brazil) was created in 2004. All these organizations are motivated by the need to structure and strengthen the recovered businesses, and their main objective is to bring together and advise the BRWs.

Within that setting, and for the purposes of our research, we will highlight the case of the Movement of Occupied Factories. This movement emerged in 2002 carrying a different banner than that of the solidarity economy: the struggle for the nationalization of the factories under worker control. The movement organized the occupation of several factories and was able to get them working again but, later, they suffered judicial takeover that put an end to the process of worker management. Currently, only one factory belonging to this movement is still producing.

The first research done in Brazil on the BRWs was done using the methodology of case studies. Starting in 2000, studies on the recovered businesses acquired greater scope. However, they still did not do a survey of all existing cases. We can mention several examples of this research. The first was done by Candido Giraldez Vieitez and Neusa Maria Del Ri, between 1998 and 2000, which studied nineteen self-managed businesses in the industrial sector. In 2001, the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE), together with ANTEAG, interviewed 367 workers from thirteen businesses associated with ANTEAG, of which eight came from a recovery process. Later, in 2002, a book was organized and published by Rogerio Valle, which describes empirical research done between 1997 and 2000 on nine businesses that went through recovery processes. Finally, in 2005, a research team coordinated by José Ricardo Tauile, visited 27 enterprises that came out of from bankrupt businesses.

These studies drew the first charts of analysis of those cases, identifying innovations in work processes and management made by the workers. At the same time, they show the experiences of the workers and their difficulties in their relationship with the market, with technology, with obtaining credit, and they analyze the subjective changes that come from collective management.

Our research sought to move forward by taking “new steps” towards understanding this important phenomenon, gaining a broader vision of its scope and diversity in our country. At the same time, it tried to shine new light on these experiences, which, with their frailties and their innovations, express the audacity of the workers in the search to self-manage their work and their personal and collective story.

Setting of the investigation and methodological path

For the reasons mentioned above, we understand that the identification of all the cases of BRWs in Brazil is the qualitative contribution of this research, because we find no references to the existence of any similar work. It should be mentioned that the system of Information of Solidarity Economy (SIES)2, which offers information about economic enterprises in solidarity, does not precisely define which are cases of businesses recovered by the workers; like other earlier studies, its objective was not to identify the whole set of existing cases. Still, knowing the possible limitations of the final result of our investigation, it would be fitting to highlight that, until the last moment, any kind of indication about the possible emergence of a new recovered enterprise in the country was taken into account, leaving the cases that we were unable to confirm for future research.

To create our first database, we took into account several pieces of information, among them the mapping done by SIES, which considers the motive for the creation of the venture to be the closure of a private business that went bankrupt; data from organizations that provide support to the recovered businesses (ANTEAG and UNISOL); books, theses, academic articles that studied the BRWs; as well as information acquired during research on the businesses that were visited, because we include a specific question in the questionnaire with the objective of identifying new cases.

Out of this prospecting, we built an initial list of 261 BRWs, which was used to carry out a pre-diagnostic through telephone contacts with all the factories in the database, with the objective of confirming: a) whether they were active and b) whether, in fact, they came out of a recovery process. Finally, we obtained a result that 67 active enterprises exist.

During our investigation, we had the unconditional support and knowledge of the “Open Faculty” extension program of the School of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). This group was responsible for doing three surveys of BRWs in Argentina, which inspired and guided the development of the pilot questionnaire that we applied during our research on Brazilian BRWs.

We visited 58 BRWs for seven months in four different regions of our country, of which 52 were validated to be part of the research according to criteria that we will relate below.

We visited and did interviews with a minimum of two researchers from our team, which, in every BRW, tried to interview a group of workers, including an administrative worker and another from production, and at the same time, we set a requirement that one of them had to be a founding member. During the field research, we gathered general information about the enterprises through the application of a questionnaire, analysis of documents, observation, and photographic records. For the 15 cases it was impossible it visit, we obtained the information by sending the questionnaire via e-mail, and/or through a telephone interview, in which we emphasized the main aspects of the research.

Faced with the heterogeneity of the experiences we found during the visits, it was necessary to reflect more deeply on the definition of the criteria to use for the inclusion of cases in the set of our investigation. To comply with this, it was decided that it would be important for the research to express the immense diversity of the cases to be able build a panorama of the varied directions taken by the businesses that went through the recovery process.

To delimit the research set, we considered it fundamental to build criteria for the definition of the following concepts: “recovery” and “self-management.” For the first concept, we took into account the criteria indicated in the following list (source: research data):


  • Are the facilities and the equipment from the old business?
  • Are the machines and facilities the fruit of the recovery process?
  • Is there are a process of struggle for recovery/maintenance?
  • Was there a bankruptcy/closure/interruption of the activities at the old business?
  • Does the newly formed business maintain the identity of the previous business?
  • Did the workers of the old business participate in the recovery process?

We based the conceptual debate on concrete cases that we had, and, concerning self-management processes, we concluded that it would not be possible to identify criteria prior to the interview itself to verify the existence and effectiveness of collective management, which led us to us consider self-declaration as the main condition, without losing sight of the need to establish criteria and indicators that provide clues about the real exercise of decision-making power of the associated workers. This analysis was also part of the objective of the research, and as a consequence, we considered the following indicators (source: research data):


  • Relationship between the number of members and hired workers
  • Participation of the worker collective in the exercise of power
  • Links with movements
  • Influence of the legal figure on management
  • Self-declaration
  • Influence of advisors
  • Turnover in leadership
  • Openness to new members

We believe that the main potential of the research is to present the current situation of the BRWs in Brazil, which is representative of an important strategy of working-class struggle for control of the means of production. With this panorama, we hope to offer elements with the purpose of contributing to the strengthening of existing experiences, both in Brazil and in other countries, and also of producing useful tools for the cases that, we hope, may emerge in the near future.

Results of the research

General data

Based on the criteria mentioned above, we were able to identify the existence of 67 BRWs in the whole of Brazil, in which 11,704 people work. Among productive sectors, the metallurgical area encompasses nearly half of the cases (45%), with 30 businesses; in second place, we find textiles, with 11 businesses (16%). Next are nine food businesses (13%) and seven in the chemical and plastic industry (10%). The remaining businesses are distributed among a broad diversity of activities including hospitality, sugar, education, ceramics, paper, footwear, mining, and furniture manufacturing.

In the geographical distribution of the BRWs, we verified that the majority of them are concentrated in the southeast (55%) and south (32%), these being the most industrialized zones in the country. We also found cases in other regions: the north-east (10%) and the north (3%). In the center-west region, we did not find any cases of BRWs.

State Total BRWs % by State Total workers % of workers
Acre 2 3.0% 344 2.9%
Bahía 2 3.0% 74 0.6%
Minas Gerais 6 9.0% 310 2.6%
Paraíba 1 1.5% 94 0.8%
Pernambuco 2 3.0% 1,130 9.6%
Paraná 1 1.5% 10 0.09%
Rio de Janeiro 5 7.5% 479 4%
Rio Grande do Norte 1 1.5% 38 0.3%
Rio Grande do Sul 15 22.4% 4,511 38.5%
Santa Catarina 5 7.5% 1,046 8.9%
Sergipe 1 1.5% 115 1%
São Paulo 26 38.8% 3,553 30.3%
Total for Brazil 67 100% 11,704

Table 1: Distribution by State (source: research data).

The recovery process

The vast majority of the cases studied (81%) reported that the recovery of the business was begun as the result of a financial crisis or with a bankruptcy of the old business. Clearly, the lack of wage payment (43%) and personnel quitting or being fired (23%) are the main motives that led the workers to fight for their jobs.

The periods when the greatest number of recoveries of businesses happened (among those that are currently active) were the years between 1995 and 1999, inclusive, with 31% of the cases, and 2000 to 2004, with 29%.

In 48% of the cases studied, the previous business started before the 1970s, which indicates that there is a significant number of cases that have their origin in business groups that are long-established in the market, given that 44% of the cases had been operating for more than 40 years.

About the existence of conflicts during the recovery process, 26 BRW carried out some protest, with 14 cases (68%) where there was an occupation or encampment, with an average duration of 52 days. This characteristic is different from the Argentine BRW experiences, where the occupations lasted five or six months, and where, in the majority of cases, there were coercive measures by the State, while there were only nine Brazilian examples of this kind of confrontation.

The large majority of the BRWs adopt the legal form of a cooperative (85%), followed by businesses (10%), associations (3%), and only one case is reported to be a “factory committee” (2%). Some BRWs are initially formalized as cooperatives, but then change the legal form to a microenterprise, because they feel that a cooperative does not have the same tax incentives that businesses do.

About the legal situation of the physical space (50 responses), 44% of the BRWs rent the property for production, 36% were able to buy it (from the old owner or from third parties) and 14 % occupies the space (with legal authorization or as a protest). There also exist cases in which there is a concession by third parties to keep the BRW active. Concerning the ownership of machines, 66% of the BRWs acquired them, while 19.6% rent them.

There are also some BRWs that use the machinery because they got legal authorization (11.7%) or through concession by third parties (13,7%).

The largest part of the cases studied (46%) is made up of businesses that had declared bankruptcy; 24% of the businesses face an active judicial process (as of the time of the interview). In 26% of the BRWs there was no petition for bankruptcy—in some cases because the plant had just been deactivated, or because the former owners decided to stop production. In only two cases (4%) were the businesses able to reach an agreement, and, thanks to the effort of the workers, able to avoid the bankruptcy of the business.

Profile of the workers

In the 21 businesses that responded about the profile of their workers, we identified that 23% of the total of workers are women and 77% men, and that 67% are members of the enterprises and 37% contracted.

Women Men Total
23% 77% 100%

Figure 3: Workers: division by sex. Sample: 21. (Source: Data from the investigation).

In relation to age, with a sample of 16 businesses, we verified that 46.2% of the workers are in the age group between 36 and 54 years old, 39% are between 18 and 35, 12.7% between 55 and 64, and 19% are over 65 years old.

On schooling, 26.1% of the workers have completed secondary education, 19.5% completed primary school, 21.7% did not complete primary school, 10% has a university degree (including both bachelors and masters), a little less than 3% did not complete early education, and we were able to identify two cases of illiteracy.

In 28 BRWs, we found up to 50 workers, in twelve cases, between 50 and 100, 22 cases between 100 and 500, and four with more than 500. Following the definition that IBGE has for the industrial sector, 60.6% of the whole set is made up of small businesses (up to 99 workers), 33.3% medium-sized businesses (100 to 499 workers) and only 6.1% are big businesses (more than 500 workers).

There are 16 experiences of BRWs where more hired employees participate than members. In 39 cases, the number of employees does not exceed 10 people. In 19 businesses, all the workers are members or have the same hierarchical level in the business.

Concerning the retention of directors or managers from the old business, 40% of the BRWs (50 cases) have at least one manager that remained at the business after recovery.

Production and Technology

Of 67 BRWs in the country, 65 are producing: one is not producing because it is going through the final stage of the recovery process, and the other had to stop its operations due to hardships in its essential work, and, as changes have happened in the business, it is in an uncertain situation. As a consequence, it runs the risk of not restarting production.

We observed that most of the BRWs produce at between 50% and 70% of their installed capacity. The businesses that produce at between 10% and 40% reported that they operate in this range because they have several machines that are not working, due to the high cost of their maintenance. One business in crisis is operating below 10%, and also has problems with production costs, without working capital or a market for its products.

The main reasons given to explain low productivity are: difficulty bringing the product to market (21%), lack of working capital/credit (16%), lack of demand for the product (13%), lack of raw material (9%), lack of adequate machines (9%), lack of specialized workers (7%) and other problems (25%) with the quality of the product, a crisis in the sector, lack of planning, lack of productive space, or temporary work.

For 46% of the BRWs, the general condition of the facilities is good, and the same percentage considers the plant deteriorated.

It is interesting to highlight that, sometimes, there is the perception that the machines are functioning well, but this perception does not refer to standards of modern efficacy, but rather to standards adequate to the immediate needs of the workers.

Labor relations

Looking at whether or not the organization of labor remains the same as in the original business, 43 of the BRWs affirm that they made some type of change (88%) in their organization. The main changes mentioned were: decentralization of power and hierarchical level; collaboration, commitment, motivation and versatility; flexibility (in relation to schedules, function, job); improvement in dialogue and relationships, greater autonomy, freedom and access to the information. These data indicate the emphasis that the workers gave during the interviews to innovations related to the employer-employee relations and the difference from the subordination that existed in the previous business. Changes mentioned with the most frequency are interlinked, suggesting that the associated workers, when they take over the management of the business, emphasize the intensification of responsibility, commitment, and motivation for their well-being.

We were able to identify that 60% (24 BRWs) had already made some type of change.

There is a perception among researchers that turnover is an important innovation within the recovered businesses, because it allows the workers have a complete vision of the productive process, contributing in this way to the de-alienation of work.

When we analyze the role and the participation of women in the BRWs, we find that 31% of them show a high level of participation. In these businesses, women become visible and take positions of leadership, both in management and in production.

In some of the stories collected on this topic, it is reported that after the recovery of the business, women began to occupy jobs that were previously denied to them, since they were reserved for men, like positions of supervision, coordination, administrative management, management of processes, presidency, and more.

On the other hand, 52% of the interviewees shared the idea that the role of the supervisors/coordinators consists of orienting, coordinating, and organizing the work and interpersonal relationships. However, 32% responded that their role should be supervising and controlling production (with the objective of guaranteeing the quality of the productive process, the planning and goals of the responsible sector). We identify that in the election of the supervisors/coordinators, the criteria adopted by the businesses are heterogeneous. Within the options, we can highlight technical knowledge and/or experience (a method mentioned in 22 businesses), which demonstrates the predominance of the adoption of meritocratic criteria when it comes time to choose the person for the position of supervisor/coordinator.

Organizational profile

The assembly general (GA) is the highest decision-making body in the BRWs. All the members participate in the GAs and, in some cases, the non-member workers as well. Almost all the businesses studied reported holding GAs, with only two exceptions: in one business, they reported to us that there is no need to carry out assemblies because the workers converse daily and decide things day to day, and the other case is a second-tier cooperative, where the GAs happen in their associated cooperatives.

In the research, we considered the GAs and the other unregistered general meetings to GAs to be the same thing, because we were interested in investigating the expanded spaces for debate and decision-making, independent of their formality. Concerning the meetings, we studied two aspects: the frequency with which they are held and what kind of decisions are made in that space.

The frequency of convening these meetings varies considerably, and shows no predominant tendency: 30% of the BRWs hold GAs once a month or more; 28% less than once a month and more than once per year; 28% annually; and only 6% did not respond. On principle, we consider that holding assemblies with more frequency (a minimum of once a month) can be an indicator that more advanced self-managed processes exist in these businesses, because that way, information and decisions would be shared frequently among the worker collective. Still, a more in-depth study on this topic is necessary for the purpose of confirming that hypothesis.

With few variations among the cases we studied, the administrative council (AC) of the BRWs is made up of a president, a vice-president, a secretary and a treasurer. Looking at the term of office, we were able to observe that in 92% of the businesses (47 BRWs), it lasts between 2 and 4 years, with the highest incidence of 3 years (43%, 22 BRWs). There is one case in which there is no defined term of office. In the majority of the businesses investigated (80%, 41 BRWs), the members of the administrative council hold their position for more than one term. We were able to observe that, generally, there is little turnover in the directorates of the BRWs, which is not necessarily due to the desire of their leaders to stay in power, but rather to resistance among the other workers to taking leadership positions.

The work day in most cases (85%, 28 BRWs) is eight hours daily or 44 hours/week, or something similar. That is, they maintain the workday stipulated by the CLT. In several interviews, it was mentioned that on certain occasions, there is the need to work overtime to be able to meet to production demands. The businesses that involve rural work have a certain particularity in this aspect, because field workers have autonomy to define their schedule and, in general, earn in accordance with what is produced. One business in the service sector also presents a peculiarity: the workers earn according to hours worked. In the majority of the businesses (67%, 34 BRWs), all the workers work the same number of hours.

Just as in the experiences of BRWs in Argentina, according to Ruggeri et al. (2011), there seems to exist a myth about the self-exploitation of the workers. Even knowing that the response given to the questionnaires has its limits, our experience and the observation of the BRWs confirmed the data presented. In spite of that, when there is a long work day, it is undeniable that the pace of work is different when defined by the workers themselves.

Concerning compensation, 49 businesses (96% among those that responded on the issue) reported that the workers receive different sums of money. The main reason given by the interviewees to justify the inequality in compensation is the difference of functions that each one has. They expressed that, because of the fact that there are different levels of responsibility, levels of qualification, or simply because work is different in different functions in the BRWs, the business establishes categories based on the functions to define workers’ salaries. Only one business reported that compensation is equal for all workers. This is a small business that, at the time of the interview, had only seven workers producing. The average difference between the minimum value and the maximum value is 4.76 (maximum/minimum). Thus, we can observe that, in spite of establishing different compensation for different categories, this difference, in most cases (66%), does not exceed 5 to 1 and is almost never greater than 10 to 1.

Draw Amount in reales
Average minimum draw R$1,063.05
Smallest minimum draw R$250.00
Greatest minimum draw R$2,400.00
Average maximum draw R$4,998.46
Smallest maximum draw R$1,000.00
Greatest maximum draw R$17,432.00

Table 2: Values of the draws. Sample: 50 (source: research data).

The question of compensation is one of the points on which Brazilian cases of BRWs are different from the experiences of Argentina. Ruggeri et al.3 identified that more than 50% of the 205 Argentine BRWs practice egalitarian compensation, as have other studies of the topic.4

Marketing and credit

The BRWs have providers that are large, medium, and small businesses.

Only one enterprise reported having another recovered enterprise as a provider, and the part it buys from it is very small in relation to their total purchases. Of the three BRWs that responded “other,” one of them makes reference to family farmers and the other to “the customers themselves.”

In characterizing the consumer market of the BRWs, we identified that 74% sell for intermediate consumption, 35.2% to end consumers and 15.6% provide services. Just as with the suppliers, the main customers are also large, medium and small businesses.

Only 14.3% of the BRWs sell more of 80% of their production to a single client. Nearly half, (42.9%) concentrated less than 20% of their total commercialization on their biggest client, close to 1/3.

In spite of the enormous barriers described by the interviewees in getting credit for cooperatives, 71% of the BRWs have already accessed some type of credit, with 37.9% coming from public banks, 34.5% of private banks and 27.6% from other institutions, such as: credit cooperatives, unions, municipalities, and federal organs of promotion. But, despite having access to credit, a good part of the BRWs, 62.2% of the interviewees (28 BRWs), reported that this topic continues to be a major difficulty.

The difficulty in accessing credit exists because of the fact that banks do not have adequate policies to serve the needs of companies starting their activities as recovered businesses. To release the loans, banks demand certain conditions, like a positive financial balance sheet and goods as a kind of collateral, which, often times, the BRWs do not possess. There exist cases where the business possesses the goods, like machines, but not the corresponding fiscal note to be presented as a guarantee. For several years BNDES has maintained a line of credit especially intended for self-managed experiences, but due to the demands of the program, there were few BRWs that were able to get access this resource.

Social Security

Within 42 BRWs, 71.5% mentioned that work accidents were reduced after recovery, and there were no stories affirming that accidents have increased. The reason for this decrease is due, for 90.5%, to the alterations that were implemented after recovery because of labor pressure, and 78% affirm that pressure decreased. The majority of the affirmative answers on the decrease in the pressure are related to the decrease in control and hierarchies, which can be symbolized in the following description: “The one who determines the pace of work today is the worker him/herself.”

Relationship with social movements and unions

What we were able to analyze based on the data gathered in the investigation concerning the actions of unions during the recovery processes of the BRWs is that there was no one path. On the one hand, there are cases in which the union offered consulting, support, and accompaniment to workers during the whole process, playing a fundamental role this way. In many experiences, once the cooperative is formed, the union continues occupying a central role, making decisions together with the workers, accompanying the whole bargaining process and, on certain occasions, some union leaders take on specific functions inside of the cooperatives. In this way, with the support of unions, the workers are able to gain strength in their struggle for jobs.

On the other hand, there are cases on which the union offered support only during the first moments of the recovery process and then left. In several of these experiences, the union went so far as to break all manner of connection, because of differences with the workers in different areas, such as administration, ideology, and politics. Finally, we can highlight that there were cases in which, from the beginning, the union remained totally uninterested, without lending any kind of support or help to workers, including even coming down in favor of the business owners during negotiations on the workers’ debts.

Another relevant aspect we can highlight is the fact that there is hardly any relationship between the BRWs and the solidarity economy, revealing a certain distance between them. A good part of the BRWs never had any kind of contact with organizations, forums, or enterprises that participate in the Solidarity Economy, or with other BRWs. We can mention that those that had some link, in most cases, creating it by participating in training courses for the workers. The same distance exists from university incubators. Additionally, 49 of the BRWs (74%) reported that they have established links with some organization that represents recovered businesses, but this relationship is, in most cases, considered sporadic.

We consider that the little contact that exists between the BRWs demonstrates the limitations that they have in establishing solidarity and commercial links, which would be of the utmost importance to be able to implement improvements and advance in the development of the businesses. Additionally, these links would also work as an incentive, enabling the building of networks.

There are also few BRWs that hold solidarity or cultural activities for the community or neighbors. At this point, also we can highlight an important difference and contrast with the experiences of Argentina, where the BRWs establish an organic relationship with the neighborhood assemblies, neighbors and social movements.5 In the Brazilian case, in contrast, we observe very little connection with the context and, when it exists, it is limited to specific activities.

Relationship with the State

Of 50 BRW, 58% reported that they did not receive any kind of support from the State during the recovery process. A few received support from state governments, and/or from the municipality through the concession of credit and political support.

A similar percentage (59%) reported that it got no support from the State with the business up and running. Among the cases that did receive help, they mentioned that 40% was from Municipalities, 25% from the state government, and 15% from the federal government. The rest of the support was granted by Senators, deputies and mayors, and the largest percentage (50%) is from subsidies and credit.

We can also highlight that 45% of the BRWs did not receive any kind of subsidy from public institutions linked to the solidarity economy.

The cases that did receive help reported that 16% was from SENAES, which prioritized indirect support, like the financing of entities dedicated to consulting, like, for example, the creation of the program “Action of Recovery of Businesses by Workers in Self-management” in 2005. But, in any case, the result is that 70% of the BRWs consider that support from the State has been nearly zero.

Among the principle demands of public policies, the following items were identified:

Demands made of the State Cases Percentage
Political strength and incentives for cooperatives and recovered businesses 16 37%
Tax incentives, reduction of bureaucracy, and transparency in the provision of State accounts 14 33%
Access to credit and subsidies 10 23%
Technical assistance, adequate education, access to technology and support from universities 5 12%
Land grants, regularization of property and transportation infrastructure 5 12%
No discrimination against cooperatives and recovered enterprises and changes in legislation on cooperativism 4 9%
Expects nothing from the State 4 9%
Integral policies for production chains 1 2%

Table 3: Demands of the State (source: research data).


In this point, we seek to understand the workers’ perception of the changes that they made and the main accomplishments they made in the recovery process. The workers affirmed during the interviews that the main changes are perceived in labor relations; 52.3% (25 businesses), to demonstrate this, mentioned the greater respect that exists for the opinions of the workers.

A smaller number of BRWs noted issues related to financial success: in six interviews, they mentioned that the main change compared to the old business was greater stability, starting with the improvements implemented in the processes, in the products, or in the position of the business in the market. There were eight BRWs that indicated that the main changes were the greater financial expenses and the increase in the buying power of the workers.

During the research, we discovered a scenario where the BRWs face an everyday struggle to reach economic viability and the survival of the business in the market. We also perceived, in several responses, indications that put these experiences in a place that goes far beyond mere economic survival, bringing us a sample of the value of dignified work, together with production that has principles and values of solidarity. At the same time, there is the expectation that this construction is permanent, yielding fruits not only for the current roster of members of BRWs, but also for the community and future generations.

The following quote synthesizes the description by one of the workers, in which he express his perception of the possibility of substituting executives, widely considered fundamental to the success of productive enterprises:

The main change is discovering the ability to manage, given that before, that role went to career executives, with no participation by the workers. I discovered that we are capable of working without subordination, and responsibly, respecting the wishes of the clients. [We are capable of] knowing how to make decisions and take precautions for the purpose of carrying out what was decided.


The results of this investigation reveal the initiatives of the workers who, in spite of not being a significant portion of the Brazilian GDP, must not and cannot be ignored. The BRWs preserve thousands of jobs, and represent a major innovation from the point of view of the organization of labor and of the strategies of worker struggle. The perseverance of the experiences of the recovery of businesses in crisis represents a social phenomenon of large magnitude, that opens various perspectives within the alternatives known to date to confront unemployment and job reduction.

The fact that recovered businesses continue to emerge in Brazil demonstrates the possibility of prolonging the phenomenon, even in times of economic expansion in the country, keeping in mind that during the second half of the first decade of the 2000s, there was a notable reduction in the number of new recoveries.

In the Brazilian experiences, we identified that the bonds between the BRWs and the broader social movement are fragile and sporadic, though the movement is capable of framing the demands of workers and BRWs, as well as politicizing the debate, seeking momentum so that practices go beyond the logic of capital.

In Brazilian BRWs, we see distance between them and the movement of the solidarity economy, and also between them and other movements, including few actions that go outside the walls of the businesses, hindering the possibility of relating to community associations located around the facilities of the businesses.

The criteria used in the investigation allow the identification of a large diversity of cases, that go from those that do not innovate at all compared to businesses or traditional cooperatives governed by capitalist logic to those experiences that reveal a series of new practices, within the logic of self-management, to the extent that they point toward the democratization of labor relations and the creation of new social relationships in the field of the material production of the means of life. Showing this diversity in the research was extremely important to demonstrating the different paths followed by the BRWs and, at the same time, demonstrated that changes in the ownership of the means of production do not automatically lead to transformations in the relations of production, in spite of being indispensable to them.

In synthesis, the main characteristics of the BRWs in Brazil are that they are organizations that are largely urban and industrial, concentrated in the most industrialized regions of the country, emerged from struggles to keep jobs in a context of crisis in the previous business, that involve some type of protest in a good part the experiences, like, for example, occupation and encampment in the factory by the workers, many of whom previously participated in union activities.

Currently, the large majority of these factories are under the legal structure of cooperative. In more than half of the cases, they are made up of more than a hundred members, mostly men who have had access to secondary education.

In spite of the BRWs being new, in relation to the alteration of the logic of capital and of the organization of labor, we who do this research, whose synthesis we offer in this chapter, fulfill the commitment of the university to research, systematize, and disseminate practices of work and collective ownership that are still little-known in our country. Consequently, we primarily seek to value existing experiences, with the firm conviction that self-management is a process in permanent construction.


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Rebón, Julián (2007). La empresa de la autonomía: trabajadores recuperando la producción, Buenos Aires, Colectivo Ediciones/Picaso.

Ruggeri, Andrés (org.)(2009). Las empresas recuperadas: autogestión obrera en Argentina y América Latina, Buenos Aires, Editorial de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Ruggeri, Andrés et al. (2011). Las empresas recuperadas en la Argentina: informe del tercer relevamiento de empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores, Buenos Aires, Ediciones de la Cooperativa Chilavert.

Tauile, José Ricardo et al. (2005). Empreendimentos autogestionários provenientes de massa falida, Brasília, MTE/ IPEA/ANPEC/SENAES.

Valle, Rogério. (org.)(2002). Autogestão: o que fazer quando as fábricas fecham?, Rio de Janeiro, Relume Dumará.

Vieitez, Candido Giraldez; Dal Ri, Neusa Maria(2001). Trabalho associado: cooperativas e empresas de autogestão, Rio de Janeiro, DPA.

  1. 2009.

  2. Carried out by the National Secretary of the Solidarity Economy (SENAES/MTE), together with the forums on the solidarity economy:

  3. 2011.

  4. Rebón, 2007; Ruggeri, 2009.

  5. Ruggeri et al, 2011; Rebón, 2007.

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