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It's been a while since our last newsletter, as the majority of our network have been scrambling to adapt to the ever changing pandemic. We hope that you are healthy, warm, safe and supported in your community during this unprecedented time. The pandemic has forced us to reflect upon our way of life and the seemingly unchangeable systems that we now see crumbling under the weight of a global crisis that they were never intended to withstand. We believe that the solution to this lies in our communities, that it will come from the people, not the government or the ruling class.
We are still meeting regularly via zoom, and working on many exciting new projects. There has been a huge increase in the amount of people contacting us looking to start their own cooperative lately, a great sign of positive things to come.
If you are not already a member of Earthworker Cooperative you can sign up here and be actively involved in the just-transition to a cleaner and fairer economy.
If you would like to donate to Earthworker Cooperative you can do so here. Any donations are really appreciated!
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So what’s happening in each of the Co-ops?
Here’s an update, as well as information on how you can support or get involved in each one:
Hope Cooperative -
Like and Share about HOPE Co-op on facebook
(Pictured: Hope Cooperative members packing food to be delivered to others in need as part of the 'Food for Hope' project)
Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative (EEMC) -
After the downturn of the first COVID-19 lockdown, interest has picked up again for Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative. The production line is still operating, and we're getting fantastic reviews from happy households with our outstanding Earthworker-Reclaim heat pump packages, and evacuated tube solar hot water systems that use our 'Made in Morwell' tanks.
One of the great things about building and maintaining local manufacturing capacity (something highlighted by recent commentary), is being able to repair and maintain essential products. As a recent example for us, one of our hot water tanks fell off a customer's truck en route to installation. We were able to accept the tank back at the factory, restore and re-test it, and hand it back to them to be used again - saving a lot of material from the scrap-heap, and demonstrating our commitment to sustainable practices.
Here's to more local manufacturing and repairing!
Find more information on the EEMC website
Redgum Cleaning Cooperative -
When Tilly asked us to provide an update for the newsletter, I wasn’t sure what to say. In the time of Covid, it feels like our progress is constantly getting stalled, and we don’t have anything firm or definite to say about where the co-op is heading.
I shared this uncertainty with fellow coop member Farida Iqbal while we were coworking over Zoom. She convinced me that we actually have a lot to say. Especially regarding the wider context of worker rights and our unique position as a cooperative. “As a business we’ve taken a bigger hit in order to preserve workplace health and safety” she said. It’s true that Redgum has taken an especially hard line on avoiding risk, and we are proud that we’ve made the choice to put our workers and public health first.
Like many businesses, Redgum was really thrown by this increase in Covid-19 and second lock-down in Victoria. We had done lots of work and training, research, negotiating with each other and with our clients, in order to set up systems and practices to make our workplace as safe as possible for everyone involved. But no sooner did we resume domestic cleaning, cases in the areas we lived started to climb, and many of us got put back in lock-down, soon followed by the rest of the state.
We have continued evening-work cleaning the Australian Services Union, as we are able to work in a very low risk environment that is empty of people. They have been very supportive. We still use appropriate hygiene measures and social distancing, and every member fills in a symptom health check before their shift. We have been very firm about supporting and requiring people to stay home and get tested if they are experiencing even the mildest symptoms.
Unfortunately, many other people working in the cleaning industry at the moment do not have access to a safe work environment, and have even had trouble getting access to basic PPE.
At our last meeting, Redgum invited a fellow member of the United Workers Union to speak about their experiences working for a large cleaning company. They had to ask their employer multiple times for masks, who delayed and then did not provide enough to cover shifts. This was even when there had been a known Covid case at their place of work.
You can find out more about the campaign for better conditions for cleaners here.
While we have decided to extend our pause of domestic cleaning until the risk of community transmission of Covid is properly controlled, we are trying to find alternative income streams. We are looking into work that is safer, allows us to have more control over our work environment and be less yanked around by the whims of this virus.
At the moment we are starting to reach out to clients about outdoor window cleaning, and are also considering doing more after-hours office cleaning and end-of lease cleans. If you want to support us we’d really appreciate it, and we hope everyone out there is taking care of each other and staying safe!
If you are interested in engaging Redgum’s services when they recommence work, please get in touch!
Cooperative Power -
Cooperative Power is partnering with Brimbank Climate Action with a collective switch campaign to help organise the local council put in place measures locally to fight the climate emergency. As part of this campaign, local activists in Brimbank will be using Cooperative Power switches in the areas to demonstrate the demand within working class and culturally diverse communities to take the power back for a just transition. If you live in the Brimbank local government area, you can help by switching across to Cooperative Power.
Like and share about CoPower on facebook
Some further reading, listening and viewing:
- Article: Co-operative housing: A greener and more sustainable way of living? an interesting read that explains how cooperative housing can be successful, affordable and eco-friendly. Read it here
- Video: The Take by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis. It tells the story of workers in Buenos Aires, Argentina who reclaim control of a closed Forja auto plant where they once worked and turn it into a worker cooperative. Watch it here (not great quality)
- Video: Disaster Cooperativism Online Webinar Recording. Earthworker Cooperative recently held an online Panel discussion with speakers Eleanor Coffey (Redgum), Godfrey Moase (Cooperative Power and the United Workers Union) and Tim Forcey (School of Political Economy). You can watch it here
- Learn: Want to learn more about sustainable living? Dominic Gilligan from Inverloch Sustainable Living is here to answer any questions you might have! Email questions to Dom here: [email protected]
'learn-o-tainment' channel: https://vimeo.com/showcase/6532154