When Henry Lezama joined Roca Mia Construction, his new colleagues were still in the process of deciding what kind of business, exactly, it would be. On New York’s Rockaway peninsula after Hurricane Sandy washed through, there was plenty of work to do. Entire homes had been destroyed; basements and ground floors needed to be gutted and rebuilt. Would the workers do demolition, landscaping or cleanup? The one thing they were sure of was that Roca Mia would be a cooperative: The employees, as a group, would own the business. “From that day forward, we all made decisions together — on buying insurance or tools or accepting new contracts,” Lezama says.
The five members of Roca Mia have now been in business as a construction company for a year (longer, notes co-op member Carlos Lezama, than many new businesses survive). While making decisions cooperatively often means sitting through a meeting at the end of a long day, when they’re all tired from installing floors, hanging drywall and painting walls, the five say that the collaborative process is worth it. Working as a cooperative has allowed them to create their own jobs, rebuild their neighborhoods and keep the money they earn in their community.
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