Working Class Acupuncture

 Learn more about our Community Partner here: WORKING CLASS ACUPUNCTURE

WCA is a social business – a term coined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammed Yunus who launched the micro-credit movement. A social business delivers “social dividends” – in this case, affordable health care and living wage jobs, not financial dividends to be siphoned off to owners or shareholders. For us, this means that we only need to break even. Social business is capitalism with a twist – a very deep, very structural twist.

In practice what this means is that we have three goals: to provide affordable, accessible acupuncture; to create living wage jobs; and to break even. Meeting all three goals simultaneously – otherwise known as “staying in business” – is fairly challenging. We want to keep our fees for treatment low enough to serve as many people as possible who need acupuncture. We want to pay our staff a decent living wage. And since we are a social business and not a non-profit, we don’t get charitable donations, foundation grants or government money. Everything that comes in from acupuncture patients, goes right out in the form of payroll – far and away our biggest expense. Affordable acupuncture and living wage jobs are the social dividends – things that benefit society – that we generate; we don’t generate financial dividends, or profits.What we love about this arrangement is that we owe our existence entirely to you, our patients. We don’t spend time or energy convincing wealthy donors or government bureaucrats that acupuncture is important to working class patients; we don’t have to beg; we don’t have to prove that we are “serving the needy”; we don’t have to make our clinics complicated in the way that nonprofits are often complicated. Thousands and thousands of lovely people with modest incomes like to get acupuncture, and so we have jobs; end of story.

What it means, though, is that we operate on a very narrow margin, even though we treat so many people. All of our full time acupuncturists earn a salary between $32K and $35K. Nobody who works at WCA, including the owners, earns more than $35K. And since our “business assets” consist mostly of ancient recliners, and we only break even, WCA is worth little if anything according to traditional capitalist valuation. There’s no business equity to speak of.

Our long-term goals are to pay all of our full-time staff, both administrative staff and acupuncturists, between $30K and $40K; to create as many full-time jobs as possible; to save some money for emergencies; and to open more clinics in more neighborhoods that need affordable acupuncture. WCA is probably the busiest acupuncture practice in the Pacific Northwest, and possibly the whole U.S. We are very happy with our success, although it isn’t financial success by most people’s definition, and as we’re sure you’ve noticed, it certainly doesn’t show up in our décor. The bottom line is that no matter how successful we get, we need you and we will always need you. If you didn’t get acupuncture, and didn’t tell all your friends and family members about how great acupuncture is, we would not exist.


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