At the center of one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the country, the South Bronx, visions for a green economy are coming to fruition. Omar Freilla created the non profit Green Worker Cooperatives to incubate a network of worker-owned businesses in order to rebuild the South Bronx. Freilla, born and raised in the South Bronx, started Green Worker Cooperatives with the mission, “to foster environmental and economic justice by developing worker-owned and environmentally-friendly businesses in the South Bronx.”
One of the Cooperatives’ early goals was to figure out how to turn a pollution nightmare into a green jobs creation engine. The South Bronx is home to 1,900 tons of construction waste that passes through the borough every day. The first co-op business was started to tackle this problem: ReBuilders Source is a discount retailers trading in used and surplus building materials. The workers co-op provides an alternative to this waste being processed at a South Bronx transfer station, on its way to landfill.
Co-ops are an empowering alternative to other forms of company or non profit organization, and provide an empowering way for local residents to reclaim their neighborhood, and create jobs. As Freilla told Yes! Magazine, “I’ve seen a great deal of personal growth among the four members of ReBuilders Source,” he says. “There is something very real and very different about not just being your own boss, but being your own boss together with other people.”