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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Wellspring Collaborative's worker-owned upholstery business provides entry-level jobs to underemployed inner-city

When Carlos Perez moved from Puerto Rico to Waterbury, Conn. in April 2012, his main priority was finding good work.

Perez could barely speak English and soon found that the language barrier would be an impediment to steady employment. He cycled through a series of temp jobs, mostly in factories, punctuated by unpredictable periods of joblessness.

The 26-year-old Holyoke resident has come a long way since then. His English has improved considerably, and he's worked at Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative for two months now. He earns a modest $11 an hour, he said, but this job is different from the others. If all goes well, Perez could be a part-owner of the company in less than a year.

"This job saved my life, pretty much," Perez said as he took a pair of shears to a charcoal-colored fabric draped over a plywood work table.

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