That seems to be the perception many people have, but it doesn't really appear to be true.
Here's what William Greene, one of the biggest names in mutualism, had to say on the subject:Amelioration of the condition of the working people is not exactly the emancipation of the working-people. The amelioration of the condition of the poorer classes, through the exercise of alms-giving and charity, means a postponement of the emancipation of the working-classes, and a perpetuation of existing privileges. The privileged classes are, without doubt, disposed to alleviate individual cases of suffering; for it is not to be presumed that they have no natural sympathy for the human beings they employ: nevertheless, as a general thing, they are not in favor of the economic emancipation, at the expense of their own privilege, of the entire working-class. The reform called for by the International Association is organic, and naturally incapable of being brought about by mere acts of charity....
Many working-men maintain that there should be an immediate radical change in the constitution of the workshop, and that all production should take place, hereafter, under the principle of co-operation. According to them, the workmen of every shop ought to organize themselves into companies owning their own tools; ought to contribute to the common product by their labor; ought to be paid by receiving their fair share of the common product when it is created; and ought to direct and govern the business of the workshop democratically, and by the majority rule. Among the objections to this scheme, the following may be mentioned: The company would have to buy their raw material, and sell their product, in the market; and purchases and sales can seldom be conducted to good advantage by workmen in business meetings, and deciding matters by majority votes. Persons who know the least would talk the most; persons of very little capacity would make the greater number of the motions; and much, if not all, of the time, would be wasted in determining points of order. "Many men, many minds." The company would probably end by employing a competent merchant to do their buying and selling. This merchant, a man outside the solidarity of the co-operators, would be able to direct his purchases and sales to his own advantage, and would, almost inevitably, usurp a privileged position. Furthermore, since working-men differ in capacity and assiduity, and since combined production requires a central direction, a manager, or foreman, with authority to discriminate in the matter of wages, would be found necessary. This manager would be a privileged person; and the company would be in his power. If they should quarrel with him, he would move into the next street, set up a workshop for himself on the wages principle; and nearly all the best workmen would go with him. He and the merchant would hold the company in their hands. If the co-operative workshop should be under the patronage and charge of the State, the case of the workmen would be still worse; for privileged positions would be created in the company for the purpose of providing places for mere politicians, or for the exercise of nepotism.
The success of the co-operative principle in companies organized for consumption [protective-union stores], and in mutual insurance-companies, is conceded. The success of productive enterprises carried on under the principle of industrial partnership, which is a mixed wages-and-share system, with the important risks falling on the employers, is also conceded.
But the hitherto uniform failures of strictly co-operative companies for production render it necessary that the International Association should patiently wait, before it gives its approval to any scheme of cooperative production, until that scheme shall have been thoroughly thought out, and until a guaranty shall be given that it will not "tend to the constitution of new privileges."
"The General Statutes" state the third fundamental principle of the Association in the words following:—
"The subjection of the laborer to capital is a source of all political, moral, and material servitude."
Many labor-reformers affirm that the fact of WAGES is the special source of the political, moral, and material servitude of the working-men to their employers. These reformers say, "Wages is slavery; and the man who works at wages sells himself and his children for slaves."
The word "wages" is old, and was current among English-speaking people, with its present meaning, long before the existing wages-system came into being. According to the common popular sense of the word in New England at the present day, a man may say, I wage a dollar, I wage a horse, meaning, I bet a dollar, I bet a horse. The word "wages" implies an element of risk. If a competent person devise some important undertaking, provide himself with capital, hire working-people at wages, and begin to carry out his plans, the money he advances from day to day, or from week to week, to the working-people, in wages, is money wagered by him; for the undertaking may ultimately fail, and yield no return for the outlay. The workingman wagers his pay for the current day only, or for the current week; but the employer wagers all that he invests in the undertaking. If the undertaking be carried on according to a share-system, and not according to a wage-system, the workman will have to contribute his share of the capital in the beginning, and wait for his pay and his share of the profits, until the work is ended, and the product is transmuted into money; the workman risking the loss, in the case of failure, not only of the capital by him contributed, but also of all the labor he has expended. Perhaps every one is willing to hold shares in privileged joint stock companies, and to receive a percentage, without himself working, of the product of other people's labor; but for every one person who is willing to work upon a strictly equitable share-system, taking his own risks, and insuring himself, a hundred other persons will probably be found who prefer to work at stipulated wages. Working-men are not, as a general thing, of the opinion, that "the man who works at wages sells himself and his children for slaves." The phrase, "wages is slavery," first put forth in the neighborhood of Boston, some twenty-five years ago, by the Brook Farm Fourierists, has met with a temporary but undeserved success.
The wages of labor are determined, under the existing system, by competition in the labor market; the employers striving, through combinations among themselves, and the exercise of legal and political privileges, to lower the rate of the workman's remuneration, while the workmen strive, through counter-combinations, and other processes, to raise the rate of their own pay.
Properly-directed and successful labor always leaves a profit; and it is a mistake to suppose, with some of the extreme labor-reformers, that all profit is extortion and robbery. When Robinson Crusoe was alone in his island, he planted seed which he had providentially put away in his pocket; and, from the consequent harvest, he laid aside seed for the next year, and had enough left to supply him with food, and a little more. This little more was clear profit. Nature worked with Robinson, giving him an increased product, and making no charge for her aid....
"The General Statutes" of the Working-People's Association make little, if any, reference, either to profits, or to the fact of wages: they declare no vain war against poverty in the abstract; neither do they denounce capital or the capitalists. They simply denounce that "subjection of the workingman to capital" which necessitates the existing wage-system, which creates the sovereignty of the capitalists, which makes an iniquitous division of profits inevitable, which causes the poverty of the working-people, and which brings about the existing political, moral, and material servitude of laborers to their employers. Capital is innocent enough. What is capital? It is the surplus product of labor laid aside, and used in reproduction. It is wealth invested in trade, in manufactures, or in any business requiring expenditures with a view to profit.7 "The General Statutes" condemn, not capital at all, not the surplus product of labor, not profits saved up and used in reproduction, but "the subjugation of the laborer to capital, " which is something altogether different. Capital is created by the laborer; and the existing subjection of the laborer to capital is the result of an unnatural subjugation of a creator by its own creature. It is the abuse of capital, the unjust privilege of capital, its domination over the laborer, not capital itself, that is in fault....
He went on...The subjugation of the working-man to capital" is not an ultimate fact: there are grounds and reasons for that "subjugation." Those grounds and reasons are to be found in positive and arbitrary legislation, which creates privileges. Protective tariff laws enhance the price of products, and so carry diminished consumption, and consequent privation, into every poor household in the land: they, moreover, strengthen and confirm the control of the labormarket by capital. Arbitrary privileges granted to chartered corporations translate themselves into outrages upon wage-laborers. Restrictions upon the use of a circulating medium based on products—whether those restrictions take the form of swindling banking-laws, or of laws (such as those borne on the Massachusetts Statute-book) prohibiting the circulation of bills-of-exchange, due-bills, checks and drafts, and the like, as currency—deprive the working-man of natural and just rights, and put him at disadvantage. http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2006/06/william-greene-individualist.html
Benjamin Tucker, another "big name," also didn't seem to be opposed to it."If a man has labor to sell, he has a right to a free market in which to sell it.”
" [if the ‘four monopolies’ are ended] it will make no difference whether men work for themselves, or are employed, or employ others. In any case they can get nothing but that wages for their labor which free competition determines."
“Wages is not slavery. Wages is a form of voluntary exchange, and voluntary exchange is a form of Liberty.”
I'm not so sure about Proudhon. If I remember correctly, he supported some form of employment/wages, but the guy is so freaking hard to follow (everyone interprets him differently), I won't say I know that for certain.
Still, this prevailing view that mutualism is opposed to wages/employment strikes me as being untrue.