Unemployment rate at 10.2% and over 2.6 million people without a job. These are the figures released by the Istat who published a report on the unemployment situation in April earlier this month, whose rate reached record levels not seen since 2004. With such a difficult economic situation, it is not surprising that some groups of workers such as those in cleaning services and agriculture strive to find a solution that even if more challenging, especially in its early stages, could result in a more stable and profitable work position. The alternative comes in the form of cooperatives, associations of workers who launch businesses of which they are owners and employees. All cooperative members have decision-making power which is what ultimately determines the success or failure of such projects.
The crisis is known to spur new ideas, and people from all sectors, especially the unemployed ones, are more likely to initiate business adventures on their own. This is the case, for example, of the women behind the Apple Eco Friendly Cleaning Cooperative: five Mexican women living in New York met in an agency handling temporarty jobs and decided to create their own cleaning company. The value proposition, beyond the skills of the women who have been working in the field for many years, is the exclusive use of environmentally sustainable cleaning products, created with natural ingredients and designed in five entrepreneurs’ kitchens. Sectors like agriculture have been experiencing the benefits of cooperatives for a longer time: better conditions for its members, more advantage in negotiations with other companies and cooperatives and a greater power and influence in the decision making process on issues that have a direct impact on the market and employees’ work conditions.
Moreover, cooperatives being in their most basic form an association in which every member owns a part of the business, the objectives of all members are aligned: whatever the role of each of the owner-employees of a cooperative, the common interest is always to grow and to strengthen the presence and power of the cooperative in the industry, facing and addressing common problems from within, from those who actually perform the work and know their business better than anyone else. Solidarity, the democratization of power and decision power for those who actually do the work seems to be once again the path to follow, at least for many of those who find themselves in precarious situations or unemployed in these times of crisis. Cleaning, agricultural businesses as well as projects within the wellness and business services industries, can definitely benefit from new ideas and the drive of women like the founders of Apple Eco Friendly Cleaning Cooperative.