Yesterday, accompanied by Rhiannon, our amazing friend and translator, we visited the Cooperativa de trabajo “19 de diciembre.” We learned about this ‘recuperated’ metallurgic factory shortly after arriving in BA, and it’s name kept popping up over the past few months. After years of layoffs and a final shutdown, the bankrupt factory (originally named ISACO) was occupied by a group of its workers on December 19th, 2002 (thus its name), who formed a cooperative to recover the company and get it working again. It continues, as in its heyday, to manufacture auto components for the automobile industry and, ironically, one of its principle clients is it’s former owner who has created another factory which buys and assembles the components and sells them on to the large automobile manufacturers (Ford, VW, Mercedes Benz). The ’19 de diciembre’ employs about 5 or 6 outside skilled workers who work the more complex die machinery and are paid $4/hour, which is twice as much as the 30 or so cooperative members earn. (It is typical for skilled workers to either leave or not join cooperatives because they can make more money as ‘independent’ employees.)
We are trying to prepare for what happens when we leave Argentina, and one of our thoughts was to see if any of the recuperated metallurgic factories would be interested in manufacturing and marketing the hotpress, which is the key piece of equipment needed to make the fiber-reinforced plastic composites. Two hotpresses are in production right now and, if they work (fingers crossed), our group will have successfully designed a piece of $30,000 machinery for under $1000! We think it might make economic (and solidarity) sense for one of the recuperated factories to manufacture and sell a hotpress at a small profit to any of the recycling cooperatives who want to use one, and at much larger profit to the plastics industry where hotpresses are commonly in use. We spoke about all of this with Enrique Iriarte, the Cooperative’s president. Now, it’s wait and see if the idea flies.