Can a digital firm run as a co-op? That’s the question Aidan King wants to answer with his new, full-service digital shop Bread & Roses Digital that officially launched on Jan. 5.
King, a member of the Campaign Workers Guild executive council, described his new firm as a “worker-owned digital agency” and tweeted that his hope is “to do this whole consulting thing a bit differently than the ‘industry standard.’”
King has a long resume of experience on the left that also includes stints on the Sanders 2020 campaign and with Greenpeace USA. His pitch to clients about a firm that’s “living its values as extremely as possible” is something he hopes will resonate.
“I hope it’s appealing to people and I hope folks realize that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. I’m trying to do valuable work and eventually when we get some people on board to help, to do it in a way that is really equitable, fair, [and] balanced,” said King, who also worked at Democratic digital shop Middle Seat.
Other shops have leaned into the live-your-values pitch this cycle. In a piece for C&E in September, Francesca Dulce Larson, a partner at New Jersey-based Mosaic Strategies Group, wrote about how firms can actually live their values and still survive the pandemic.
“When we dig into our values as progressive leaders the core is people, not profitability,” she wrote. “The people who power our political movements across the country deserve to know that while they’re leaving it ‘all out on the field’ in the name of justice, that their leadership, whether in the White House or in their office, has their back.”
King says he shares that desire for his firm to be a model of the values progressive candidates and groups advocate for. “I want to show that this model can work and the myth that gets sold that things can’t be equitable because of X, Y, Z, a lot of people say that and I just kind of want to prove that mindset wrong. “My hope is that prospective candidates and organizations see it as an opportunity to go, ‘We can take a little bit of extra pride in our choice of contractors.’”
Now, as a sole practitioner King can’t unionize, but he’s supportive of any future hires going that route. “I hope to God they unionize,” he said.
Indeed, there’s a clear trendline of unionization when it comes to digital shops. While CWG has unionized digital shops including Aisle 518 Strategies and Middle Seat, a major win for unionization advocates came in October when the Communications Workers of America’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, known by its acronym CODE-CWA, announced it had organized 75 of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Blue State’s campaign strategists, analysts, designers, account managers, finance specialists, office managers, and developers.