Co-Op Academy Teaches Workers to Build Green and Cooperative Businesses

GRITtv's Laura Flanders speaks with the founder of the program and takes you inside one of its classes.
Green Worker Co-Op Academy photo by Stephen O'Byrne

Shown here: Janvieve Williams Comrie and Omar Freilla are surrounded by Co-op Academy graduates. Co-ops represented from left to right: Caracol Interpreters, Ginger Moon, Green Worker Cooperatives, HTINK, and Concrete Green. Photo by Stephen O'Byrne.

This video originally appeared at GRITtv.

For our New Economy series The Laura Flanders Show at GRITtv is highlighting solutions for our economically precarious times. Cooperatives have demonstrated the great power in working together, and this week we bring you the Green Worker Co-Op Academy.

To combat environmental hazards in the South Bronx caused by industries such as waste facilities, sewage sludge processing, and distribution centers, Omar Freilla decided to start the Green Worker Co-Op Academy in 2003.

"I became very frustrated with the premise of most cities," Freilla said. "Whatever the dirty polluters are, those are the ones that wind end up getting sited in the communities with the least ability to say no."

When promising to bring jobs to the community, these industries do not say that these jobs are often low-paying, dangerous, and pose great health risks. The academy boasts a how-to program on creating and maintaining a sustainable, democratic, and environmentally friendly cooperative business.

Some graduates of the Green Worker Co-Op Academy have gone on to become successful businesses, including Caracol Interpreters Cooperative and B-Blossom Catering Cooperative.

More recent alumni include Ginger Moon, a "food-doula" service that helps provide nourishing meals and support for new mothers, a student credit union, and a women's health and culture magazine called POP.