Background

Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative

Open a newspaper any day and the need to create jobs is paramount. Our communities, suffering from high and long-term unemployment, are waiting on the government or private sector to solve the jobs crisis—to no avail. Instead it is the time for us to take the initiative, be part of the solution and embrace a successful economic development model that creates jobs that are accountable to workers, their families, and their communities for the long term. The Mondragon Worker-Owner Cooperative from Spain is a compelling model to replicate in part due to the success in creating and sustaining family supporting jobs and developing a vibrant middle class in an originally war torn area.

Background:
Mondragon Worker-Owned Cooperatives began 56 years ago in the Basque region of Spain after the Spanish civil war left the region devastated. Mondragon started with five worker owners and has expanded today to more than 85,000 worker owners, over 24 billion dollars in sales, and upwards of 200 cooperatives in 39 countries, operating under the “one worker, one vote” principle. Mondragon is the 7th largest corporation in Spain today.

The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI) emerged in the wake of a historic agreement signed in October, 2009 between Mondragon and the United Steelworkers, North America’s largest industrial union, to launch union-cooperatives in the United States. The agreement opened the door for the opportunity for CUCI’s to create jobs that are family supporting and improve the local economy in the Greater Cincinnati area by replicating and enhancing the long standing success of Mondragon’s Worker-Owned Cooperative Model by implementing the United Steelworker (USW) – Mondragon agreement.

Our effort stands on the shoulders of the Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives launched in 2009, also inspired by the Mondragon model. To date, Evergreen has launched three co-ops, Evergreen Laundry, Ohio Solar that offers energy retrofits and solar panel installation, and Green City Growers that grows high end lettuce for hotels and restaurants in Cleveland. They have dozens of potential cooperatives in the pipeline. We are partnering with the major players of this initiative including the Ohio Employee Ownership Center for our unique project.

Another model for success is the Pittsburgh Clean & Green Laundry, a union-worker coop that is set to be operational in 2014. It will establish a sustainable, market-competitive, green laundry in a disadvantaged neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh to support the regional healthcare and hospitality industry. The Laundry aims not only to create job opportunities for historically disadvantaged individuals but provide for an opportunity to create family wealth through business ownership.

The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI) incubates Mondragon union-co-ops by developing and refining co-op ideas, funding feasibility studies, providing technical assistance, identifying community partners, educating on cooperative business models, and attracting existing Mondragon co-op businesses to expand to Cincinnati in order to create family sustaining jobs in the Cincinnati area. Our partners include Mondragon USA, USW, UFCW, local Building Trades, local NAACP, Cincinnati State, Ohio State, Ohio Employee Ownership Center, Center for Community Change, Blue Green Alliance, and St. Francis Seraph Ministries.