Inequality and a lack of economic mobility define today’s economy, putting the American Dream out of reach for the vast majority of low-wage workers. This is particularly true for the many immigrants employed in the U.S. service sector, who, despite their determination and tenacity, often struggle to make ends meet. Some of the hardest hit are the women and mothers striving to not only earn a livelihood, but also to support their families and ensure a quality education and bright future for their children. These hard-working immigrant women are undervalued and often invisible, yet they are a powerful force that helps sustain our economy. They are innovative and resilient, but their tremendous potential too often goes untapped.
At Prospera, we believe that our economy is ready for an extraordinary change, and we can start by building businesses that empower workers. We partner with low-income Latina immigrants to build co-ops. Worker co-ops are local, democratically run businesses, owned by their members. Because every member of a worker co-op controls the business democratically, worker-owners are able to review the company’s budget, share profits, set their own policies, and determine the benefits provided. This often translates to asset-building opportunities and benefit packages that are well above industry standards.
Co-ops provide so much more than a job. They provide the opportunity for aspiring, determined entrepreneurs in low-income communities to overcome barriers to family economic success. Co-ops offer opportunities for ongoing education and skill development, enabling workers to build brighter futures for their families. With increased control over their work-schedules, members of co-ops can better organize their lives around family needs. Co-ops also keep money and jobs local, and empower community members to build a more just and equitable local economy. Especially in immigrant communities that face discrimination in the workplace, obstacles to acquiring capital, and the struggle of assimilating to a new culture, co-ops offer a fitting solution. They allow individuals to empower themselves as dignified workers and leaders, investing in their own futures and those of their families.
Since Prospera was founded in 1995 (as WAGES - Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security), we have incubated five successful worker co-ops, each collectively owned by immigrant Latinas. We have proudly watched these five businesses complete our multi-year program and graduate from incubation to become mature co-ops. Each one now operates independently.
The worker-owners of Prospera co-ops double and triple their incomes, build financial assets that are 22 times their initial investments, and become financially savvy business owners through skills training and work experience. Their personal and professional growth fuels social transformation: we have seen these women send their children to college, leave unstable jobs, and escape domestic violence situations. The collective ownership structure also fosters remarkable leadership development, empowering the worker-owners to spur local economies. Worker-owned co-ops create waves of empowerment that begin with groups of entrepreneurs and move to transform entire communities.
Prospera, and the women we have partnered with, owe these accomplishments to our supporters. Co-op development is high impact, and also high resource. The results we have had would not be possible without the investment of our many supporters, partners, and champions. To make an investment in us, in the women we partner with, and in the prosperity of our communities, click here.