What we're reading: Spark

Here at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, we’re voracious readers.  Our latest favourite is Frank Koller's Spark (2010), from Public Affairs Books.

CCPA Research Associate Jim Stanford’s read on it:


This extremely readable book was written by Frank Koller -- one of the most thoughtful, fair-minded journalists on Canadian radio. He’s used both his journalistic and his story-telling talents to tell the story of Lincoln Electric, a manufacturing company based in Cleveland, Ohio whose official policy since 1958 has been not to lay off long-term employees (defined as anyone who’s been there for 3 years or more). Lincoln also possesses a participatory, paternalistic, and union-free work culture, which has helped it to survive the brutal conditions that led to the extinction of so many other American manufacturers. Koller does not paint a rose-coloured picture of the company; he interviews plenty of critics, and is carefully independent in his assessment.  Indeed, after reading this book, I would not remotely posit Lincoln as a “model” for better employment practices.  Koller’s book is most useful when approached as an extremely well-written, impeccably documented case study in labour relations -- rather than as a manifesto for successful “caring capitalism” (which Lincoln does not represent).  Reading this story carefully should help unionists and socialists think concretely about ways in which we can extract a more humane bargain from the capitalists who employ us.  I recommend Koller’s book highly, both for armchair analysts and (for practitioners and specialists) as a well-document case study in labour management strategy.