Category Archives: Fair Work

Our Presentation in Connecticut

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Coordinator at Center for Family Life

A few months ago we were invited to visit Wililmantic, Connecticut to discuss the story of our cooperative development project. This is a short video from that day:

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Filed under Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

Si Se Puede! in the Brooklyn Rail

In its September issue, the Brooklyn Rail magazine profiles the Si Se Puede! Women’s Cooperative. In recent years, the coop has been an outstanding success: it has provided its members with a steady source of income and drawn attention by the media and community groups seeking to replicate its model. With growth, however, members have come to face new challenges as they deliberate how to meet the ever-increasing demand for their services:

Like all coops, membership in Si Se Puede! requires participation in the day-to-day management of the business and there is work to be done beyond the payment of dues. For one, members must spend three hours a month promoting the coop to potential clients. This might mean staffing a table at a summer street fair or handing out Si Se Puede! literature in upscale Brooklyn neighborhoods.

This old-fashioned, grassroots outreach has paid off; the coop now has more than 1,300 people in its database—from one-time users to weekly clients. What’s more, they’ve scored work not only from individuals but also from yoga studios, stores, and a Fort Greene bed & breakfast.

In addition to doing outreach, members are also required to attend weekly meetings where business decisions are hashed out. (…) Current hot topics include how fast Si Se Puede! should grow. Should membership be capped, so that the coop remains small, or should it be opened to new members? If they choose to expand, will increased numbers inhibit participatory democracy? Can they avoid a more traditional hierarchical structure if they double or triple in size?

Not easy questions, these, but Si Se Puede! members and CFL staff agree that change is inevitable if the coop is to continue to thrive, and all are confident that the business is strong enough to weather growth spurts and challenges. In fact, [Cooperative Coordinator Vanessa] Bransburg says that interest in the Si Se Puede! model is burgeoning and groups like Make the Road New York and Catholic Charities are looking to CFL for help in establishing similar projects in other parts of the city.

Read the entire article here.

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Vanessa Lionheart

The coordinator of our Cooperative Project, Vanessa Bransburg,  has been nominated for a Lionheart Award. Offered in collaboration between the promotion campaign for the upcoming new Robin Hood movie and the Robin Hood Foundation, the award recognizes individuals who make a positive impact in society. Winners are selected through online voting. The three winners receive $5,000 and they can direct another $5,000 to the charity of their choice. Please support Vanessa by visiting her profile and clicking on the “I support this Lionheart” link! Voting ends on May 16.

Congratulations, Vanessa, and good luck!

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Filed under Center for Family Life, Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC

Color Me! Cooperative Launches

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Coordinator at Center for Family Life

In March, fourteen immigrant women from Sunset Park came together to start a worker-owned interior painting business. They began a 10-week cooperative orientation and training to prepare for the launch of their business.  As the Cooperative Coordinator, I designed the curriculum and helped recruit the founding members, but what I did not expect was the high intensity of enthusiasm and focus from the members.

During these first 10 weeks before the launch, we covered the fundamental principles of the cooperative movement, communication skills for group work, decision-making strategies, the infrastructure development of the business and of course- interior painting basics. Week after week, the members expanded their set of skills, including practice painting sessions decorating several rooms at the offices of Center for Family Life. This not only provided them with the opportunity to develop their painting skills but also to learn how to work effectively as a team.

By the end of the 10-week period, members developed a good rapport with each other and gained confidence as newly minted business owners. During the last two sessions, members met with Maria Parodi, a marketing specialist from from a consulting agency, Vidal Partnership, to learn about branding and marketing. Ms. Parodi also helped them develop their business name and positioning. These trainings were filled with energy and geared the members towards a more focused path, getting a better sense of who their target audience would be and the best ways to approach them.

On April 28th, we held a graduation ceremony for the Color Me! Cooperative. The room was filled with family members, friends and CFL staff, all of whom felt proud of the members for having come such a long way to start their very own business enterprise. As a symbolic acknowledgement of this big moment, each coop member received a certificate. We also celebrated the event with delicious food.

The Cooperative is now offering Sunset Park residents and friends of the Center a promotional offer to paint your home or apartment at a 50% discount. The promotion is for a limited time only, so give us a call today for an estimate. You can reach us at (718) 633-4823.

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Filed under Center for Family Life, Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

The Growing NYC Cooperative Network

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Project Coordinator, Center for Family Life

In the past few months, the Worker Cooperative Project at the Center has fielded numerous inquiries from community-based organizations and individuals about how to develop a worker-owner cooperative in their own communities. We had several meetings to answer their questions and tell them about our story. It soon became clear that these groups and individuals need much more support than these conversations can provide.

Based on these experiences, I began to speak to cooperative worker owners, allies and other developers in New York about the need for support to those interested in developing their own cooperative businesses in low-income immigrant communities around the city. The Center’s annual Fair Work Symposium in December 2009, provided an excellent opportunity for the launch of a city-wide network of worker-owned cooperatives.

The idea behind the NYC Cooperative Network is to provide support, guidance and access to resources to both newly formed cooperatives as well as seasoned ones. By serving as an information clearing house and a forum for advocacy, the network can make a significant impact in the city’s immigrant neighborhoods, promoting economic opportunities through safe and fair work and fostering community development.

The meeting in December was full of energy and inspiration, and a strong desire to build a network that would evolve into an organization working in alliance with the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Since this meeting, the NYC Cooperative Network has created a listserv in order to facilitate communication among the 41 active members.

Our second meeting was held at the Urban Justice Center, coordinated by attorney Ted Barbieri and myself. This meeting helped us refine and express what our goals and interests are. We also had a great time getting to know each other on a more personal level. By the end of the third meeting, held in February at Little Sisters of the Assumption and led by Omar Freilla, Founder of Green Worker Cooperatives and Flor de Maria Eilets, Workforce Coordinator at LSA, members had produced a solid draft of the network’s mission statement.

We still have much work ahead of us, yet it is clear that the NYC Cooperative Network has the potential to become a magnificent space for those who need tools and support as they take on the challenge of developing worker-owned businesses in their own communities.

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Filed under Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

Cooking East to West Series Off to a Great Start

The Cooking East to West culinary project launched in December with a class featuring three of Émigré Gourmet’s chefs. In February, the series continued with a hands-on Indian cooking class led by Émigré chef Afsari Jahan. Participants learned the secrets of classic foods like tandoori chicken (see recipe below), and took part in a shared meal.

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Filed under Community Development, Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

Upcoming Events at Employment Services

February will be a busy month at the Center’s Adult Employment Program, with a variety of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

On Monday, February 1, is the first open house session for the Cosmetology Project. This is a great opportunity to receive training in cosmetology, receive a state license and find a job in the beauty sector. The event begins at 10 am at our Adult Employment Program office at 443 39th Street, Brooklyn, NY. To inquire, please contact project coordinator Dulce Jimeno at (718) 633-4823.

We invited the Business Outreach Center to provide a small business development workshop on February 5. For those interested in starting a  small business, the workshop will help prepare for the first stages of development, including business plan creation and information about useful resources. The two-hour workshop will begin at 10 am at 443 39th Street, Brooklyn, NY; registration is not required. If you have any questions, contact program director Maria Ferreira at (718) 633-4823.

As you may know, 2010 is the year of the decennial Census, and the U.S. Census Bureau is hiring temporary, part-time census workers.  The first step to becoming a census worker is taking a test, which you can do at our program site. Tests will take place at 1 pm on several days, including February 1st, 3rd and 5th.  If you can’t make it next week, more dates will be available throughout February; please contact Ms. Ferreira at (718) 633-4823 for more information.

Our Worker Cooperative Project will organize a new worker-owned business in spring 2010. The new cooperative will provide interior painting and decoration services, and it follows the model of the successful coops organized by the Center over the past three years.  We are organizing an open house event on February 22 at 5:30 pm to recruit members for this new coop. This is a fantastic opportunity for participants to increase their income and become business owners; previous experience and skills are great but not required. To learn more, contact Cooperative Coordinator Vanessa Bransburg at (718) 633 4823. You can also read our previous posts about the award-winning Worker Cooperative Project by clicking on this link.

On February 25, we are hosting an open house event for those interested in working as home attendants. Offered by Partners in Care, this program includes a free, three-week training and a job opportunity for those who complete the training successfully. At the open house event, representatives of Partners in Care will conduct interviews with interested participants between 10 am and noon.

As an ongoing service, we offer credit counseling by a professional consultant every Tuesday from 9 am to 12. This service is available by appointment only – please call Maria Ferreira at (718) 633 4823.

The Adult Employment Program also provides a range of free services to help participants increase their chances to find employment. These include ESL classes and workshops in resume writing, job interview preparation and and using office computer software.  To participate, visit our office at 443 39th Street, Brooklyn, NY to complete an application and receive orientation. For those already registered, job search assistance in our computer lab is available every Monday and Wednesday at 9:30 am.

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