On Saturday, the Workers Cooperative Academy graduated its second class in a short ceremony held at Navigant Credit Union in Central Falls.

19 people graduated the class, and may be soon starting new cooperative businesses in Rhode Island.

The classes are organized by the POWER Network (People Owning Wider Economic Resources), a coalition of public, private, and non-profit partners that incubates worker-owned and -managed cooperatives.

The POWER Network is comprised of Fuerza Laboral; Navigant Credit Union, providing financial counsel and services; University of Rhode Island (URI)’s Rhode Island Small Business Development Clinic, providing legal consultation; the City of Central Falls, providing infrastructural support; and the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, an experienced incubator for worker co-ops.

“The Cooperative Movement has taken a big step,” said Raúl Figueroa, who coordinated the classes for Fuerza Laboral. “A lot more people are getting involved. They want to learn more about Cooperative Development. For us, it’s an honor to be able to share our knowledge with all of you.”

The cooperative movement seeks “to create an economic model led by impacted members of our community that respects the dignity of all workers, draws on workers’ own strengths and skills, and puts people above profits. A network of cooperative businesses founded with these values will provide living-wage, quality jobs to those who are most vulnerable to income inequality, thus changing the economic power dynamic that had previously kept them poor,” writes Fuerza Laboral.

“When we empower each other, we help each other,” said Rhode Island State Senator Sandra Cano (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket).

“The more important thing is empowering our families to be able to create their wealth,” said Central Falls Mayor James Diossa. “To create opportunities of equality, to create an income stream that not only helps the people who are working but helps their families.”

Heiny Maldonado, cofounder of Fuerza Laboral and founder of the POWER Network, presented the certificates.

Three students then spoke about their experiences.

Ellie O’Shea Wyatt:

Raúl Carrizalez:

Claudia Galeano:

Everett Pope:

Raúl Figueroa with closing words:

Sandra Cano
Raúl Figueroa
James Diossa
Heiny Maldonado and James Diossa
Ellie O’Shea Wyatt
Raúl Carrizales (r)
Claudia Galeano (r)

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