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 to transition to a low-carbon economy and empower the Latrobe Valley community through dignified employment and environmentally friendly enterprise. A unique initiative, Earthworks is a worker-run factory producing premium quality solar hot water and energy storage products for Australian households and businesses and now has its first large worker-owned cooperative – the Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative (EEMC) 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 choose the goods the cooperatives make instead of taking their wage rise in cash, which means they build climate jobs and reduce their energy bills.
Earthworker focuses on social and environmentally just outcomes, and has installed solar hot water systems in low-income housing, including in the homes of indigenous communities. It has also promoted cooperatives and mutuals through unions and public social partnerships to achieve big infrastructure projects, and to link these activities globally through Social Sector Fair Trade Agreements (SSFTAs) with labour, cooperative, environment and climate movements, superannuation/pension funds, national and regional governments, faith communities and others to build a critical mass of action on the climate emergency.
“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
This story originally featured in the Atlas of Utopias.