Grants & Scholarships
Workers' co-op gives workers decision-making power
This project, the brainchild of Fuerza Laboral (Power of Workers), recruits, trains, and assists low-income workers to establish worker cooperatives that provide good quality jobs to help improve the workers’ economic security, as well as that of the community.
Daisy Salvador and Oscar Leiva never imagined they would own their own business. Yet now the Central Falls residents, natives of Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, are two of the owners of the Healthy Planet Cleaning Co-op.
The worker-owned cooperative is the brainchild of Fuerza Laboral (Power of Workers), a Central Falls- based nonprofit organization founded in 2006 around issues of economic justice for workers. Raul Figueroa, Fuerza Laboral’s community organizer, explains, “The organization’s priority initially was to see that workers – mostly Latinos working in the service industry – got paid. We started seeing trends. People were coming back for the same issue. We were helping them to get justice, but it was a short-term win. We started educating workers about worker rights. The workers had experience, but were only getting paid minimum wage – when they got paid – and had no job security.”
Daisy’s experience illustrates the point. “I worked for 14 years at another cleaning company, and they basically brushed me off. When the opportunity to join the co-op came about, it caught my attention. I wanted to work in a friendlier environment where I felt appreciated.”
Oscar, a victim of wage theft, explains, “I had no rights or any way to grow in a company. Now I can help grow our business and am getting paid a good wage.”
Known formally as the POWER (People Owning Wider Economic Resources) Network Co-operative Business Incubation (CBI) Program, the project recruits, trains, and assists low-income workers to establish worker cooperatives that provide good quality jobs to help improve the workers’ economic security, as well as that of the community.
“Our goal is for workers to have a safe workplace where they can earn a livable wage and have job security. With a co-op, everyone is on the same level, has a voice, and has the same decision-making power.”- Raul Figueroa
The program’s first co-op, the Healthy Planet Cleaning Co-op, launched in May 2018 after a survey found this was an industry where prospective participants expressed great interest and had significant experience. It currently has three owners, with five individuals “in process” to become owners through an eight-week education program, and contracts to clean seven commercial buildings and 20 to 25 residences.
Additional worker co-ops are being planned. “Working with a cooperative is a good way to lift up a community,” Raul says, a sentiment shared by Daisy and Oscar.
The Foundation’s investment in Fuerza Laboral’s POWER Network CBI Program is important to our economic security strategy, as it can be a model to create good quality jobs. The project is aligned with our efforts to help businesses start and grow by strengthening the business ecosystem.