4/7/11 - SVA Asked To Assist in Green Laundry Project

 On April 7th, 2011 the Steel Valley Authority participated in a meeting with the workforce at the Sodexho Laundry in the Lower Hill District to discuss the potential development of a new, cooperatively owned, labor-friendly, green, commercial laundry business to replace the 100 or more jobs that will soon be lost when Sodexho closes. 

Representatives from the worker’s union, the SEIU, participated in the meeting along with the Chief Executive Officer, Jim Anderson, and Plant Manager, Medrick Addison, of the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Cleveland.

The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry began operating last year in a new $6 million plant and services the health care and hospitality industries.   It was formed through a community economic development initiative to promote the development of urban cooperatives as a means to improve the quality of life in the community.  This initiative was strongly supported by local foundations and the City of Cleveland as well as professionals at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center and the large, Spanish, cooperative corporation, Mondragon.  So, the Steel Valley Authority was very pleased to sponsor a forum in which workers in Pittsburgh could learn about the cooperative business model and learn from the leaders of Cleveland’s effort.

The Sodexho laundry workers were pleasantly surprised to learn from Jim Anderson and Medrick Addison about the many financial and operational benefits that the Evergreen Cooperative was able to provide its workers.  For example, the Evergreen Cooperative is able to pay its worker-owners about 20% more per hour than Sodexho pays and completely fund a real employee health insurance plan rather than one with such a high cost that no one can actually afford it.  In addition, the Evergreen Cooperative enables its workers to earn their investment stake in the company through a 50 cent per hour payroll deduction over their first three years of service.  And, it is estimated the workers will amass about $68,000 for retirement in less than 10 years of service.

Medrick Addison also discussed with the workers the very high standards of employee conduct, and the strong personal commitment to the success of the laundry, which are necessary to be successful.  In response, the Sodexho workers asked good questions about the operation of the Evergreen Cooperative and what it will take to get a similar, cooperative laundry built in Pittsburgh.  The Steel Valley Authority explained to the workforce that it is working with several local foundations to develop a business plan for a cooperative laundry in Pittsburgh, but that it will take a couple of years to finance and build a new plant.  The workers, in turn, agreed to form a committee to work with all of the other stakeholders to help move the project along as fast as possible, especially given the fact that they will all be losing their jobs in the very near future.

The Steel Valley Authority thanks Allegheny County’s Economic Development (ACED) and City Councilman Bill Peduto for their generous support of our efforts to assist these workers and their families to explore an alternative to losing their jobs.