Here at Safi we are all learning the co-op model…

We are grateful for the worker-owned cooperative model! Now that everyone at Safi is an owner we all have to understand bookkeeping. This means everyone has to know math, learn more English, and improve our skills. Onward and upward in 2024!

There are many benefits to this model. One is the support of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and being able to communicate with other fairly-run cleaning businesses, around the country. Being part of this positive movement is a source of joy for us all.

Another is financial transparency. We have always, as a business, been willing to share our financial information with everyone involved in the company, employees as well as clients, because we want everyone to be able to verify for themself that we truly are a fair, social enterprise. However, until everyone became a co-owner, and had to start signing documents and making financial decisions, we were not all motivated to take the time to learn enough English, law and mathematics to understand our legal agreements, cash flow, and our balance statements.

Learning these skills makes us more independent. If ever the central office cooperative were to fall apart, the Safi affiliates could, with some difficulty and a learning curve, continue to work independently. So now our model is more sustainable.

The model also develops our empathy, since we have to make decisions cooperatively. In the past, in the employer/employee model, conversations could be adversarial because the relationship at some level was always going to be adversarial. In the cooperative model we still have difficult conversations, but eventually we must find a way out that is cooperative, and that takes communication and empathy on all sides

The skills we are learning are also transferable to starting a different business, and even to understanding personal finance, as well as studying in college and learning a new profession.

We have been asked, what are some downsides? Of course there are some. Not everyone felt comfortable becoming an owner, as it’s involves an additional responsibilities. So they left the company.

Indeed we’ve wanted to help people who really have difficulty finding decent employment on their own and at this moment the people involved in the company are particularly competent despite the tragedies they have faced. We do think in the long run this is going to be better for everyone because since the central office is run by non-refugees, we were not able to truly give people the support they needed. For starters we don’t speak everyone’s language. In the long run our network of small affiliates will likely each have a different language spoken and be able to help new arrivals in their own language.

Fatna, for example, right now is trying to find to people who either speak her first language or speak Arabic and have recently arrived to serve the Southwest/Midvale part of town near where she lives. She was previously a teacher, and we know she will be a better trainer than we were, especially for people from her region.

Social security including the Medicaid contribution is the same whether you’re a worker owner or employee. Also our liability and car insurance and bond is essentially the same. What is different is that there is no employer who is required to pay unemployment insurance, vacation, nor sick leave. That said the each cooperative has funds that they accumulate and which they can use in case of an illness, holidays, and similar. If a worker on or chooses to leave the cooperative she will receive a buyout amount of her equity in the company which serve someone like unemployment insurance.Soon we hope to have disability insurance through the USFWC, which seems essential.

Are we earning more or less in this new model? If you count the meetings and trainings as work hours nobody is earning more than before. If you don’t count meetings and training as work then per hour for cleaning we are earning more.

Thanks for your questions. Please continue to ask us details about our new model, and we will update this post with answers!

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