women-owned worker coops & the fight against the feminization of poverty
July 22, 2014 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Sarah McKinley and Violeta Duncan for Community Wealth: Worker Cooperatives Address Low-Wage Work and the Feminization of Poverty.
Women of color working low-wage jobs must often navigate unregulated work conditions, as much of their work is domestic labor—caregiving, house cleaning, child care—an industry that, historically, is not only low-paid but also exploitative. The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), a 10,000 membership-based organization for nannies, housecleaners, and caregivers, describes, in its 2012 Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work [PDF] report, the substandard conditions of domestic work, including lack of employment benefits, meager wages, exposure to toxic chemicals, and physical abuse.

Such unhealthy work environments and insufficient pay have led a number of these low-wage women to take matters in to their own hands. Many have formed women-owned worker cooperatives that ensure good pay and healthy working conditions, help women overcome the isolation and vulnerability of domestic work, and empower women to build wealth for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Women-owned, women-run worker co-ops featured in the article include: Other women-owned, women-run co-ops in the United States: Bonus reading material: Previously on MeFi:
posted by divined by radio (15 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
The FPP right before this one is all about an iPhone game where you can pretend to be Kim Kardashian, climbing the celebrity ladder to a-list fame. The FPP links to accounts of people spending up to $500 real-world dollars on extras to help with the game; it also speaks of a way to "cheat" so you play with an unlimited amount of in-game currency.

That FPP received twelve comments within an hour of posting, compared to this FPP's zero.

I feel like the juxtaposition between the response to this FPP and the Kardashian-game one kind of sums up this whole society.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

Sadly, no co-ops in Texas. Unsurprisingly. And EC, I just now saw this post AND the Kardashian post because I was off the blue for a little bit.

(and thanks, divined by radio. I'm not sure what I can contribute since I've never run/worked in a co-op, but this is good information to have)
posted by emjaybee at 9:47 AM on July 22, 2014

Except I know quite a bit about this subject (it's hard to avoid in the San Francisco East Bay) and nothing at all about Kim Kardashian. What is there to say, except I support it? Except I don't support it with my actual dollars because the one Oakland co-op we tried out didn't cut the mustard, over and over. As a consequence we all went with a non-co-op that promised living wages, health care, etc. for their employees.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:51 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you for all of these links...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2014

Yay! I'm so glad someone posted this. I use Si Se Puede! and they do a great job. Have not used the other coops but thanks for the comprehensive list.
posted by ichimunki at 9:56 AM on July 22, 2014

Sadly, no co-ops in Texas.

My Google-fu was sorely lacking when I was trying to build up this list, but I am pleased to report that there are at least two women-owned, women-run co-ops in your fine state! Predictably, they're both in Austin: Red Rabbit Baking Cooperative omg vegan donuts omg and Dahlia Green Cleaning Services.
posted by divined by radio at 10:11 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here you go, emjaybee Texas worker co-ops

Thanks for this post, I look forward to reading through it in more detail. The article's point that wages must come with healthy and safe working conditions is well taken -- and I believe it is true that a democratic workplace has more chance of achieving this, although it is not foolproof!

Co-operatives have a long history of feminist activism and analysis. I just did my MA with a focus on co-operatives and some of the most fun I had was writing a paper looking at early co-operatives in the UK and contrasting their practices regarding women to that in the chartist (fight for suffrage) and union movements.

From the get go, women could be voting members of co-operatives, even while the chartists were setting aside women's suffrage in their struggle for votes for working men because it was perceived as unwinnable. In another case I looked at, women formed a co-op print shop as the (high paying) printing jobs were union shops, and the unions wouldn't let women join (based on the "men must provide for families" argument).
posted by chapps at 10:14 AM on July 22, 2014

In Victoria, BC there is also Women In Need co-operative. they switched from a non profit model to a co-operative, which was I think a deliberate shift to more empowerment for the women involved.
posted by chapps at 10:19 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like the juxtaposition between the response to this FPP and the Kardashian-game one kind of sums up this whole society.

Did you mean to post this in multiple threads or are you just having a bad tab day?

posted by elizardbits at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2014

Did you mean to post this in multiple threads or are you just having a bad tab day?

Guilt that I hadn't given the women's co-op thread any love either, actually. If mods wanna cut one of 'em, I'm down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2014

I wish I had something more insightful to say than that these women are doing God's work, and I wish I knew a good way to lend them a hand.
posted by The Gaffer at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kick ass post, divined by radio! The main article is excellent. I look forward to exploring the rest.
posted by jammy at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2014

Thanks for posting this. A good friend works for NDWA and is doing some seriously kickass organizing around the country. An excellent and effective organization.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2014

Folks may be interested in this Canadian study of co-ops formed by immigrant communities. [pdf]. it includes overviews of some women-run co-ops, too, such as Vancouver's Afghan Women's Sewing Co-op and Victoria's International Women's Catering Co-op (who make the best food at the farmer's market).

I think it is interesting (and great!) that Si Se Puede lists co-ops they have inspired on their website. I think such co-ops do get created by word of mouth within particular communities, and that is pretty cool, but I especially like that they come out and claim their own inspirational work for what it is.

I would also like to think/ talk more about the FPP's point regarding raising minimum wage in Seattle vs. the co-op model. it would be interested to know how many area co-ops are already paying the new rate, and if any will struggle to manage to pay the new rate.

Co-ops really operate outside of the state-provided model of social service in many ways. The require economic contribution from their members as a principle, and the democratic structure where members control the co-op really takes a step away from the helping and charity models of other efforts to lift particular communities up.

I am not picking on the good work of charities, but I think it is interesting that the co-op model finds a way to circumvent the critics of big government spending in social programs, and also the idea of big government interference in people's lives.
posted by chapps at 3:45 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Holy poot I knew nothing about this sort of thing! Thank you for sharing!
posted by magstheaxe at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2014

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