Emma's Eco-Clean was started through WAGES (Women's Action to Gain Economic Security), a nonprofit whose mission is to build worker-owned green businesses that create healthy, dignified jobs for low-income women. WAGES incubates the businesses — which currently all focus on green cleaning — by providing management services and business loans.
Emma's Eco-Clean, founded in 1999, now has 29 partners. The impact on the women who join is enormous: Individual incomes nearly triple; many receive health, dental and disability benefits for the first time in their lives; and, since they are all business owners in the cooperative, they can participate in profit-sharing and asset building. Also, the women's health generally improves since they are no longer routinely exposed to toxins during the course of their work.
Says Clementina, a member of the Emma's co-op, "At the cleaning job I had before Emma's, I had to use harsh cleaning products that made it difficult for me to breathe and that caused a painful rash on my arms. Now I don't have these health problems, and I have paid time off when I need to take care of my children."
Because of the amazing benefits and improved quality of life, Emma's sees extremely low turnover in the women who join. Whereas many cleaning services see average employee tenure of three to six months, Emma's has many members who have been there for years. As a result, customers can have their houses consistently cleaned by the same people.
Women in the co-op receive extensive training to learn about green cleaning practices, financial literacy, customer service and governance. Each woman in the co-op has one vote, and all major issues are brought to a vote at monthly meetings, including matters such as hiring new members and how to spend profits.
This educational model encourages the women to support their children's education, and many of their children go on to become the first in their families to go to college, including one student who is now attending Stanford. The women themselves also experience a surge in self-esteem as many of them become the primary income-earners in their families and take great pride in the fact that they are now business owners.
Says one co-op member, "I can think of no better way to raise my children than by letting them know that their mother is proud and secure."
Many clients of Emma's Eco-Clean also have strong convictions about the cooperative. Claire Silver, a Mountain View resident and satisfied Emma's customer for the past three years, explains her view: "I am very committed to green cleaning, but for me what is even more important about Emma's is that it is cooperatively owned by women for women. I've had the same two cleaners the entire time, and they know me and my house and are always cheerful and punctual."
To learn more about Emma's or to get a quote on their services for your home, see www.EmmasEcoClean.com or call (650) 261-1788.