Pa’lante is the Worker-Owned Green Cleaning Coop You Should Be Using
“When we speak about justice, we’re talking about several things. We’re talking about social justice, which is working so that everyone has the same opportunities and the same access. We are also talking about climate justice and collaborating with the environment, because that’s something that affects us all,” explains Caridad Gutierrez, the President of Pa’lante Green Cleaning, a worker’s cooperative based in NYC.
Founded in 2014 in Jackson Heights, Queens, Pa’lante Green Cleaning (“pa’lante” means “forward” in Spanish) is part of a growing renaissance of worker-owned cooperatives currently operating in NYC. Beyond offering high-quality cleaning services, their work builds a more equitable system, both economically and environmentally.
“I would love people to understand better is what it means to work in a cooperative and to be a worker owner specifically. Being a worker-owner is a really powerful and beautiful thing,” Gutierrez tells us. “We feel proud of our work, and if people hire a worker-owner, the owners of the business are doing the cleaning in their houses, and are incentivized to work hard and to do a good job because we know this is how our business grows and this is how we get recommendations. Working in a cooperative means working as a team. It means working for living wages, and it means working in an environment that’s free of exploitation.”
Though coops are nothing new (some of our favorites have been around since the 1970s), they are an increasingly attractive option for workers fed up with an unlivable federal minimum wage and intense income inequality. (While tech businesses and startups have offered some alternative business models, in many places these can further exacerbate tensions.) In New York– where gentrification and inequality are most acutely felt–, coops have become an achievable option, in part thanks to NYC’s Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, which devoted $1.2 million to supporting worker cooperatives and in the first year doubled the amount of coops in NYC.
In NYC, green cleaning worker cooperatives in particular have become a burgeoning industry. Historically, the cleaning industry has been one dominated by women and immigrants– two groups particularly vulnerable to lower wages and exploitation. In addition to Pa’lante, Si Se Puede! Women’s Cooperative, We Can Do It!, Ecomundo Cleaning, and Bioclassic Cleaning all offer green cleaning services and are entirely worker-owned.
“I like to see the other cooperatives in the city being green– offering high quality services to their clients without damaging anyone’s health,” Gutierrez adds of the other cleaning cooperatives. “That’s something that we want to see more of… We’re really not trying to compete with the other cooperatives, but to unite. And if we unite, we know that we can achieve goals together, because before we were working the cooperative, we all have faced situations of exploitation by different companies.”
In addition to the systematic change worker cooperatives engender, they support the success of individuals as well.
“It’s a good experience for mothers because it offers you the flexibility of being able to take care of your family while working toward something bigger,” Gutierrez maintains. “When I started off in the cooperative I had a serious problem: my first son was going off to college and I didn’t have any money to be able to pay for him to go… But with the work that I started getting through the cooperative, I was able to support him and ended up graduating from university.”
Gutierrez reflects, “We really work without any distinction in terms of race or other factors. We all came to this country to try and achieve our dreams, and that’s what we’re trying to do in the coop is to unite to be able to achieve our dreams.”
To learn more about Pa’lante Green Cleaning, visit their website.
Need to do a little light tidying at home? Try making your own sage and lavender cleaner.