Pa’lante Green Cleaning: Cleaning Cooperative For Sustainable Jobs

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

A new small business is hoping to clean up the cleaning industry.

Pa’lante Green Cleaning is a worker-owned cooperative whose mission is to create stable jobs with living wages while providing high quality, eco-friendly cleaning services.

Michael Nussbaum (left), Queens Tribune publisher, presented a Small Business Achievement Award to Blanca Palomeque of Pa’lante Green Cleaning and Saduf Syal (right) of Make the Road New York. Photo by Walter Karling

Michael Nussbaum (left), Queens Tribune publisher, presented a Small Business Achievement Award to Blanca Palomeque of Pa’lante Green Cleaning and Saduf Syal (right) of Make the Road New York. Photo by Walter Karling

Pa’lante was founded with the help of Make the Road New York, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering Latino and working class communities through organizing, education, resources and policy innovation. Make the Road New York has 14,000 members across the City and provides services such as adult education, legal and health resources, community organizing and advocacy.

In 2009, the nonprofit began offering workforce development services, with the objective to connect residents with jobs and training opportunities, and to provide expanded workers’ rights and occupational safety training. It was from this initiative that Pa’lante was born.

In helping to form Pa’lante, Make the Road New York’s goal was to create a worker-owned co-op where 100 percent of the profits go to the workers, and all decisions are made among worker-owners democratically.

“It’s an environment where [the worker-owners] are able to make decisions together, so they have a say in the business and how it’s run,” said Saduf Syal, co-op developer with Make the Road New York.

Syal added that the worker co-op model is already well-established in some Latin American countries, so many members have prior experience in or knowledge about that setting.

Co-op president Blanca Palomeque said that through a co-op, “we can stop the exploitation that many of us have experienced working in individual jobs or with other companies. As worker-owners, we are protected by the cooperative.”

According to Syal, the benefits of working for a co-op extend outside of the workday as well.

“I think that that’s really empowering,” she said. “We can already see with workers coming in how it’s changed dynamics at home, with families, that practice of democracy is extended beyond the workplace.”

Sustainability is the foundation of Pa’lante’s mission – the co-op hopes to create sustainable jobs with living wages, sustainable relationships with clients and sustainable, safe and eco-friendly cleaning products.

“Pa’lante” is a Spanish word that translates roughly to “forward.” The name embodies both the worker-owners’ personal histories as immigrants and the co-op’s focus on the future.

“[Our mission is] to grow, both in terms of gaining more clients and having more jobs, as well as one day opening the cooperative for more members and that way creating more jobs for our community,” Palomeque said.

For now, the co-op has 15 members.

Pa’lante is located at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, and can be reached at (347) 845-6674 or info@palantecleaning.coop.

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.