The Cooperative Difference
I’m Manuel, and four years ago, I immigrated here from El Salvador with the hope of a better life.
I’ve always been ambitious. In El Salvador, I got a job in a paper factory, and I steadily worked up to be an administrator with a solid life. But a new boss came in, and one day we had tough words, and from one moment to the next, I was fired.
But I didn’t give up, and my wife and I decided to come to the US.
Things weren’t easy. All I could get was menial work with no chance of growth. I worked hard in a granite company for years and never had an opportunity to advance no matter what I did. My time and my life were being used up.
I saved up for a truck and became an independent contractor. But I couldn’t get jobs, and I was still dependent on work from people who own construction companies. Owning my own business, much as I wanted to, was financially impossible.
Then Sandy hit. Once again, everything I worked for was taken away. The house we bought for our new daughter was flooded, and we lost electricity and heat right as winter was setting in. Things that had been hard suddenly seemed impossible.
But then something different happened. In the church I was sheltered in, I met organizers from Occupy Sandy and The Working World who were teaching classes about cooperative businesses. I liked the idea of working with others to build something of our own. So a group of us decided to form the Roca Mia Construction Cooperative.
I am no longer alone. You simply can’t compare this to a normal job. That’s the cooperative difference.
Despite being new, we already earn most of our income from Roca Mia, and when we work, we make a lot more. As a real company, now we get our own clients, and we’re growing so much–our hope is that we can add more worker-owners soon.
The cooperative is ours, no one can take it away. Without Occupy Sandy and The Working World, none of this would have been possible.
It has been very great and beautiful. This is what I hoped for. And this is just the beginning.
Worker-Owner, Roca Mia Construction
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