For 22 years Earthworker Cooperative has brought the environment/climate movement together with the labour movement to build cooperative manufactories and other cooperatives to enable communities to find ways out of the climate emergency. Today it is supporting a growing network of cooperatives in manufacturing, energy, and service sectors, including the award-winning Redgum Cleaning Cooperative..
The Earthworker project was set up by trades unionists who were also environmentalists, and who realised they could use their social weight to help the state of Victoria undertake a ‘just transition’ to a low-carbon economy, and empower fossil-fuel dependent regions like the Latrobe Valley community through dignified, democratic employment and socially and environmentally useful enterprise. Earthworker’s flagship initiative is the Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative, a worker-run factory producing premium quality solar hot water and energy storage products for Australian households and businesses in Victoria’s coal region in Morwell.
The cooperative sells its products to customers, governments and through union Enterprise Bargaining Agreements. The Maritime Union of Australia is the first major union to place the Earthworker Clause into their Agreements. This means that waterfront workers will be able to obtain local cooperative-manufactured products, as part of their negotiated wage rise, which means they create climate jobs and reduce their energy bills.
Earthworker is focused on social and environmentally just outcomes and have already placed solar hot water systems into low -income housing and importantly, we are engaged in the act of practical Treaty building with first nations peoples which involves installing hot water systems in Indigenous Housing.
Rooted in strategies to demonstrate ways in which we can work our way out of climate emergency, Earthworker has worked to promote cooperatives and mutuals through unions, public social partnerships to achieve the big infrastructure projects our country and the world needs, and to link such activities globally through Social Sector Fair Trade Agreements (SSFTAs) with labour, cooperative, environment/climate movements, Superannuation/Pension Funds, national and regional Governments, Faith Communities and others to build the critical mass of action on the climate emergency. We are advocating around our work, trying to maximise the profile of the work we do and build the boarder social and solidarity sector of the economy.
“To build bridges between the climate and labour constituencies and connect union membership and public procurement to worker-owned cooperatives that provide more ecologically sustainable products is very innovative and urgently needed. The Earthworker Cooperative provides plenty of inspiration for practical and positive energy alternatives elsewhere!”
– Lavinia Steinfort