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As a part of our national Worker Co-op Conference convening in Philadelphia on September 9th and 10th, we recognized some outstanding worker cooperatives and cooperators who are building a culture of solidarity and forging a more just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, together, at the 2022 Worker Co-op Awards Ceremony.
Each year, USFWC’s Worker Co-op Awards recognize a range of worker-owned businesses and cooperators at the forefront of the movement to create stable, empowering jobs through worker-ownership.
Keep reading to learn more about who we recognized this year and their work to build thriving communities across the country. We’d also like to extend a big thank you to our conference sponsors who made our event more accessible by allowing us to offer scholarships and improve our language access!
Cooperator of the Year: Zenayda Bonilla
Zenayda Bonilla is a fearless worker-owner at Golden Steps Elder Care Co-op. In the fall of 2021 she volunteered her time to help a local organization out of her community of Sunset Park known as Mixteca in helping people apply for the Excluded Workers Fund (EWF). She also offered her services to the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives to help undocumented worker-owners apply for EWF. Having supported over 50 worker-owners and family members, Zenayda’s commitment to the emergent needs of her community has earned her the title of Cooperator of the Year.
Worker Co-ops of the Year
COVID Resiliency – Alliance Collective
Alliance Collective converted to a worker cooperative in 2021 and is already a fierce advocate for the model since beginning their journey. The co-op guides its clients through healing from the long-term effects of complex trauma, intergenerational trauma, and the collateral damage of what bell hooks calls “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Their goal is to restore health, improve function and connect those in need with appropriate community services.
Commitment to Community – PODER Emma
PODER Emma Community Ownership creates tools and strategies to prevent displacement and preserve the tight-knit nature of mobile home communities which keep families safe. Over the years PODER Emma has created community solutions to problems in their neighborhood that have created a collective belief that when community comes together we can improve their lives for themselves and future generations.
Essential Crisis Responders – ChiFresh Kitchen
ChiFresh Kitchen is part of a collaboration of urban farms, food operators, worker centers, policy advocates and other community organizations led by people of color on the South and West Sides of Chicago, who are coming together to promote food sovereignty, racial justice, and equitable food access in the City. The co-op is composed of five formerly incarcerated minorities who had a plan to make a difference in their community through food. Running for three years and counting, ChiFresh Kitchen continues to distribute tens of thousands of healthy meals a day to people who need them, and provide living wages to workers who are shut out elsewhere.
Language Justice Leaders – Voces de Nashville
Voces de Nashville is flipping the narrative of language justice and providing language accessibility by teaching English speakers Spanish while at the same time providing for themselves and their families. Driven by their desire to improve their economic situations for themselves and their families, three women started the co-op to create good jobs with good wages for immigrant women, mothers, workers and other Latinx community members where they were valued and their native tongue was an asset. Voces is a testament to the power of worker cooperatives, bringing cooperative economics and language justice to Nashville!
Industry Disruptors – CLEAN Wash Mobile
CleanWash Mobile is a worker cooperative fueled by car wash workers themselves at the Clean Carwash Worker Center in Los Angeles. Tired of the fact that no matter how many years they worked at a car wash, they couldn’t move up the ladder, these workers took matters into their own hands. The program CleanWash Mobile developed has evolved into a gold standard that could serve workers at all levels of education, and allow graduates to become trainers themselves. Right now there are five worker-owners of CleanWash, but the success of this pilot can seed replication car wash cooperatives across the city – and that could make a big difference in where the money goes in the car wash industry.
Solidarity Economy Advocates – Collective Uprising LCA
Collective Uprising is one of Colorado’s few solidarity co-ops—owned by the workers, vendors, and community members who participate in it. They are a collective of local artists, unique vendors and caring individuals working together to achieve their individual goals as well as create a community in which they can collectively thrive. They embrace local commerce, the redistribution of wealth, creating art, making space for others and taking action to build a more equitable community. 50% of their profits are redistributed to the community, as land rent to Indigenous people, reparations to Black women and non-binary people, and to help fund community projects!