Now, after five years of hard work, the all-female cleaning cooperative excels at operating on its own. Its members support themselves as well as an office manager - their first employee - and their co-op serves as inspiration for two other cooperatives supported by CFL: Beyond Care!, a childcare co-op, and Golden Steps, a non-medical eldercare co-op launching this month.
The impact on Si Se Puede!'s members has been profound."At first, I didn't take it that seriously because there was no assurance of success," admitted Hernandez. "[It was difficult because] when we were forming the cooperative, it took a year to start getting work. What got me through it was the women in the group and the support from CFL."Now she's seeing the fruits of her labor. "After attending meetings, meeting the women and finding out the issues, I started to become more invested," the Sunset Park mom explained. "The highlight for me is that we've gotten where we wanted to be. We're very informed on how to do quality work, to guarantee quality for the price we charge."
For single mom Irene Alcanta Gonzalez, aspiring for that success keeps her motivated through these first months of her co-op, Golden Steps, for which she was just elected secretary.
"At first, it was a really incredible feeling to be chosen out of 90 people. It gave me a feeling of value," said Gonzalez, who heard about the co-op from staff at a domestic violence support program. "I live in Brownsville [and] it's been a lot of sacrifice to balance working, taking care of my children and coming here. I want it to be successful. I believe it will work. I see everyone working hard and going to extra meetings. I hope for a good job and a just salary so that I can keep supporting my kids."
At Golden Steps we begin by getting to know about the seniors' needs. Our goal is to provide care and support to the senior so they can continue to carry on a dignified life in their home. Companions are well prepared and eager to make the senior feel as if they are with family- cared for, attended to and loved.
Workers from New York's Center for Family Lifeand three of the co-ops they helped incubate, Si Se Puede cleaning co-op, Beyond Care childcare co-op, and Color Me interior painting co-op, tell their story to the Willimantic Inter-Cooperative Zone.
40 people gathered together on the 12th floor in a mid-Manhattan building to see how much interest and energy there was for starting a worker cooperative network in the Big Apple. They came on that Dec. 18 morning representing functioning worker co-ops, groups in the process of starting worker co-ops, non-profit incubators of worker co-ops, and support organizations. They came from all over New York City and Long Island. And most represented low-income, immigrant-driven projects.
The Center for Family Life, Inc., a United Neighborhood House community center in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn used their annual city-wide symposium to call this cooperative forum. Participants produced more than enough interest and energy to launch the beginnings of a "NYC-Co-operative Network" that held its first follow-up meeting on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 in the offices of the Urban Justice Center in lower Manhattan.