Work Together (Archive)

Immigrant cooperatives in cleaning and care services in New York

Domestic workers work in private households for private individuals. In many countries, these are not considered workplaces or employers. Close to a third of domestic workers in the world are excluded from national labour regulations and do not have access to maternity protection rendering them informal.

22 May 2015

Cooperatives can provide a way out of precarious and informal working arrangements, which can be a feature of working life for many migrant workers. They can offer access to key services needed by domestic workers, including training and education, housing, and financial services as well as care services for their own families.

Si Se Puede! (We Can Do It!) Women’s Cooperative was founded in Brooklyn in 2006, with the mission to bring together immigrant women to create a women-run, women-owned, eco-friendly housecleaning business. The cooperative is designed to create living wage jobs that will be done in a safe and healthy environment, as well as to provide social supports and educational opportunities for their members.

These women previously worked in the informal economy. They are all registered members of a registered cooperative. The cooperative has 65 members (as of March 2015), all of whom have completed a probationary training. All of the members, who are all immigrants, have an equal voice in decisions regarding policies and operations. In addition, members work together to promote the business and meet bi-weekly for on-going training and support.

Since the beginning, Si Se Puede!’s work has been supported by the Center for Family Life, a nonprofit community-based organization providing social services in Brooklyn since 1978. The Center has incubated another four similar immigrant worker cooperatives. At the beginning of the cooperatives’ life, the Center provides the cooperatives with legal premises and administrative support. It is now incubating another four cooperatives, within the framework of the ongoing municipal policy in New York, which is actively promoting worker cooperatives, including among the immigrant population of the country.

More information about how cooperativas are key on the transition towards the formal econmy here