Anarchist takeover

AK Press set to relocate its Oakland warehouse to the Chico airport

Book worms and anarchists were all atwitter this past week when news broke that AK Press, an institution in Oakland, was moving its warehouse to Chico. The independent book publisher, with its roots in Scotland but its main market in the United States, is giving up Bay Area living for a quieter, more affordable base of operations.

“Most of it is the cost of living in the Bay Area—it’s getting unsustainable,” said employee Bill, who declined to give a last name.

As rent prices in Oakland and its environs have escalated in recent years, it follows that life has become less comfortable for the company’s employees. What’s more, the AK Press warehouse, hit by fire earlier this year, was red-tagged by the city and ordered to undergo major improvements before being deemed habitable again.

“That really lit a fire under our ass,” Bill said, chuckling at his own unintentional pun. The company had been looking to move anyway, he said, and being red-tagged forced their hand.

AK Press has published and distributed a number of controversial books on radical leftist politics. As an anarchist company, it works on a cooperative model. Every employee is equal, sharing in the fun stuff as well as janitorial duties and receiving the same amount of pay. Despite a fair amount of name recognition, however, AK Press is not a big company. Three employees will move from Oakland—where the company’s warehouse has been located for 15 years—to Chico, with no expectation of hiring. They’re currently in escrow on a warehouse on Ryan Avenue by the Chico Municipal Airport.

“We’ll probably actually move up there in January,” Bill said. “There are a lot of things that are still up in the air.”

One thing, however, is for sure: The AK Press folks are excited for a new start. Over the past several years, they stopped holding events at their warehouse. The space had become too cramped. At their new location in Chico, they hope to hold book-release parties, author readings and other events, said Charles Weigl, another AK Press employee. Given Chico’s strong arts and literary scene, the community seems like a perfect fit.

“Considering the size of Chico, we have a pretty big following there,” Bill said. “Since we posted about the move on Facebook, we’ve had all kinds of people coming out of the woodwork, saying ‘ ‘Yay!’”