By Joe Maniscalco
Bronx, NY – Innovative worker cooperatives throughout the five boroughs have gotten a significant boost this year from both Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and a progressive City Council. Now, advocates for hungry worker-owned businesses hope that organized labor starts to embrace them equally as well.
The City of New York’s prior $1.2 budgetary commitment is currently helping nascent worker cooperatives around town to grow and prosper. And next week, Mayor de Blasio will officially green light a new effort to begin tracking the amount of business the city is actually doing with worker owned businesses.
Over the last several years, Green Worker Cooperatives in the Bronx, has helped about 19 different groups establish worker cooperatives in a variety of industries, ranging from heating and air-conditioning to baked goods. About eight of them are still in operation, or about to launch. Another three are still trying to make a go of it.
The largest, Caracol, provides language translation services to “just about every social justice organization in New York City,” according to Omar Freilla, coordinator, Green Worker Cooperatives. Initially, the three women who founded Caracol were making $20 an hour. Two years later, the worker-owners now command $50 an hour fees, enjoy a staff of 10, and count international news organization Al-Jazeera as their biggest client.
“There is an old guard of the labor movement that hears worker coops and are highly skeptical, and don’t want to have anything to do with them,” Freilla says. “But there is a place for a union within a worker coop. Particularly, when you talk about larger worker coops.”
The venerable United Steelworkers appear extremely supportive of worker coops, having entered into partnerships with Spain’s Mondragon cooperatives, as well as helping to launch new worker cooperatives here in the U.S.
Read the full Labor Press article, “Worker Coops and Unions – Together Again.”