Worker Co-ops Catch on in Philadelphia

Last fall, Colombia native Luis Eduardo Lozano and four other immigrant day laborers, tired of the indignities of scant, irregular hours and wage theft from employers, formalized the PWA Handymen Cooperative in Philadelphia. Now the worker-owned LLC offers residential and commercial interior and exterior renovation services.

“To work in a co-op means higher rates and secure work. The contract is secure and fair,” Lozano says, speaking through a Spanish interpreter. “A percentage of the fees will be paid to the co-op, and at the end of the year members will earn extra. We all gain from the success of the co-op.”

In West Philadelphia, another new worker co-op launched in June. Formed by artists and social-justice organizers, Bonfire Media Collective provides video and design services — and operating as a collective aims to counteract the industry’s reputation for chronic underpayment, long hours and irregular work.

These new businesses are among a handful of diverse co-ops sprouting around Philadelphia, nurtured by a year-long study and training program offered in 2016 and 2017 by the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA).

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