CUCI October Update – Mexican Union Symposium Keynotes and how solidarity and non-extractive funding structures are helping co-op networks thrive!

For National Co-op Month we have some exciting, inspiring and tough updates with grants, the effects non-extractive (and extractive) loans, and what amazing acts of solidarity and struggle can achieve.


We are a month and a half out from the Union Co-op Symposium and are excited to announce our keynote speaker from the Mexican Electrical Union (SME) who will talk about their 10 year fight to take back their electrical plants and turn them into worker cooperatives. Get your ticket to the symposium to learn from first hand from them!

In other news, September was a bittersweet month for CUCI. We said a heartfelt goodbye to our Financial Analyst and Co-op Business consultant, Andrés Contreras, who moved back to his home country Venezuela. On a happier note, we were excited to find out we were awarded a Refugee Agriculture Partnerships Program government grant for $100,000 per year 3 year grant along with Our Harvest, Refugee Connect and Catholic Charities of SW Ohio to train and support new refugees in agriculture and forming cooperative businesses.

A few other exciting highlights include:

  • CUCI is going to unveil our new logo with our new name Co-op Cincy next month.

  • Cincy Cleaning Co received a $15,000 start up loan from Seed Commons.

  • CareShare released their new logo.

  • Co-op Dayton’s co-op grocery store Gem City Market had their groundbreaking this month

  • Symposium Hotel deal ends Oct. 17th

Symposium Keynotes Feature Mexican Union's Take Back Utility Plants and Employment of 1400 workers!

Humberto Montes de Oca (Photo by David Bacon) from article “The Rebirth of Mexico’s Electrical Workers” published by

Humberto Montes de Oca (Photo by David Bacon) from article “The Rebirth of Mexico’s Electrical Workers” published by

Have you been following the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME)’s 10-year fight to take back their electricity factories and turn them into worker cooperatives? We are excited and honored to have two leaders of SME as our keynote speakers at our symposium – Humberto Montes de Oca and Martín Esparza.

Get an in-depth background from a NACLA article “The Rebirth of Mexico’s Electrical Workers,” or read our summary (below) if you’re short on time.

Read a summary of the SME recovered factories:

The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) is the oldest democratic union in Mexico, formed in 1914 by workers from the power company Compania Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyF). LyF was founded in Canada 1898 and granted a government concession to generate, transmit, distribute, and sell electricity in central Mexico. However, Mexican workers found they were being paid less than the company’s Canadian and American workers and organized to create a union. Ongoing mobilization around better wages and working conditions during and after SME’s formation helped the union negotiate a seminal labor contract that not only ensured SME’s independence from the government but set a precedent for electrical workers across Mexico and Latin America and situated the union at the forefront of the progressive left.

SME’s progessive politics placed it in stark opposition to a growing wave of corporate-led, government-backed neoliberal reforms in the 1990s. SME had pushed for nationalization of the electricity industry in the 1960s, and the Mexican government eventually bought 90 percent of LyF’s shares, turning it into a state-owned and operated power company. At the same time, the government implemented other regulations making the Mexican government the sole legal electricity provider in the country. But in the 1990s, the government began a series of privatization reforms, opening the sector to foreign electricity generators and halting investment in LyF’s infrastructure and modernization. In response to the increasing resistance to these reforms by SME along with mass mobilization on the left, in 2009 Felipe Calderón’s administration refused to recognize the re-election of SME’s General Secretary Martín Esparza, declared both LyF and SME non-existent, and ordered the army and police to occupy LyF facilities. The government seized $80 million in union funds and fired all 44,000 workers. 28,000 accepted the government’s offer of severance pay, while more than 16,000 refused the payment and declared themselves to be “in resistance”.

SME’s subsequent mobilization drew supporters from across the Mexican left and general public and included hunger strikes, a national strike, a Day of Indignation, and a solidarity campaign with unions and labor federations. The government and police response was violent but by 2016, the SME had negotiated a settlement with the government in which the government agreed that the union could organize a cooperative and take over LyF’s former generation plants, offices, and other worksites to compensate for the $80 million of union funds taken in 2009.

Approximately 1,400 former workers are currently receiving some income from the new cooperative. Workers are slowly rebuilding their workplace and livelihoods through the provision of 500 different services, including cleaning offices, building generation stations, running generation plants, running a dining hall, and making uniforms. Eventually, SME hopes all of its remaining 15,000 workers will be able to return to work in the electrical sector.

Sustainergy Bids Farewell to Co-op Coach Andres

Sustainergy Bids Farewell to Co-op Coach Andres

The Sustainergy team met with Andres their final time last month, and reminisced about all of the great projects they had worked on together including learning and implementing 5s and LEAN business practices which helped them become more efficient, improve safety, and reduce direct expenses.

Cincy Cleaning Co is officially launching October 21

The team of ten immigrants has been hard at work shaping their co-op during the past 11 months. Excitingly, they were just awarded a $15,000 start-up loan from the Seed Commons Cooperative which allows them to officially launch on October 21. The co-op will initially be focusing their cleaning efforts on northern Greater Cincinnati -Wyoming, Glendale, and West Chester but will expand over time. To find out more or book their services,go to

Our Harvest needs YOUR help in order to CONTINUE supporting food, soil, health, environment

Our Harvest needs YOUR help in order to CONTINUE supporting food, soil, health, environment

We are reaching out to ask for your help. We stand at a crossroads. Our Harvest has been struggling with debt incurred in it's early days. We can’t manage it any longer. We have an exciting and unprecedented opportunity to reduce and refinance the majority of the debt on much more beneficial terms. However, for Our Harvest to continue beyond December 20th, we must refinance the debt AND raise $35,000.

Reflections on American Factory Documentary from Co-op Dayton’s ED, Lela Klein


The Executive Director of our sister union co-op network Co-op Dayton and long-time labor lawyer, Lela Klein, was a content consultant on the Netflix Documentary American Factory. She reflects on the struggles of blue collar workers as portrayed in the film saying, “American Factory gives a rare cinematic look at the working lives of blue collar workers in both the US and China, documenting their struggles and sacrifices in the wake of unchecked corporate power. We see workers in both countries squeezed by the pressure to make a profit at any cost, including trampling of workers' right to unionize and to a safe working environment. The film's final shots serve as a call for workers around the world to see themselves as "tied in a single garment of destiny." #economyforall #liberateourfutures

CareShare ready to start serving families!!

CareShare ready to start serving families!!

The month of June was a busy month for CareShare as startup CEO, Susan Stai hit the ground running preparing all marketing, web and communications systems for launch. With the help of TechSolidarity, a volunteer tech non-profit out of silicon valley, the initial web landing page went live July 3, 2019, just in time for the CareShare team to kick off their marketing and recruitment campaign at the Northside 4th of July Parade (pictured above). It was hot, but the crew had a ton of fun passing out flyers to new and soon to be parents. 

Join us for the 4th Biennial Symposium - Liberating Our Future Together: Building the Cooperative Ecosystem

On November 15-16, CUCI and 1worker1vote will be holding Liberating Our Future Together: Building the Cooperative Ecosystem, a 2-day Symposium that  will bring together more than 200 workers, union and community organizers, and business and religious leaders to learn from one another and from the decades-old, economically thriving Mondragon system (the largest group of industrial worker-owned cooperatives). The Symposium offers a look at what's happening on the ground to establish integrated networks of worker-owned, unionized businesses. It exposes people to proven innovative models to reduce inequality, poverty, and gentrification. Participants will discuss best practices, union co-op management, financing, training, the power of the union co-op model, and how to build an economy that works for all. If you are a social entrepreneur, labor organizer, co-op worker, community development practitioner, co-op developer, or someone looking for alternative economic models that are more just and equitable- Join Us Nov 15-and 16th in Cincinnati! We especially encourage groups to come. We are so much more powerful when we are part of a team! Buy your tickets here!

Renting Partnerships Conditionally Recommended to Receive City NOFA Funds for First Dividend Housing project.

Renting Partnerships Conditionally Recommended to Receive City NOFA Funds for First Dividend Housing project.

Renting Partnerships is well on their way to raising funds to acquire and redevelop four units in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood. Hear more about the City’s conditional recommendation of $124,000 in our first Dividend Housing project and hear what inspired our first social impact investor to make an investment.

Summer Intern's Bio

Arianna Semilia is a rising senior, Economics and International Business double major with a minor in Political Science from Xavier University. She is from Palermo, Italy and decided to move to Cincinnati to pursue better opportunities.

Our Harvest begins its 8th year

Our Harvest launches into their 8th season with several new workplace pick-up locations, some fresh new marketing materials, & a new marketing and sales consultant. Spirits are high on the farm side of the operation because this is the first season that they have been completely caught up with their planting, weeding and harvesting. Read more about Our Harvest...

Apple Street Community Owners are Stepping up and helping bring their co-op to fruition.

Despite the financial setbacks of the past months, the ASM community owners didn’t give up and started a community owner loan drive in April. We also have some exciting fundraising news coming soon. Some community owners stepped up to contribute and you can do the same. CUCI is also accepting tax deductible donations for those who are interested. The market is showing significant progress to allow the project to move forward and this is a great opportunity to help those neighborhoods control their destinies. Read more...

CareShare Hires Startup CEO

After 2 years of studying the feasibility of the project, CareShare is excited to announce that they have hired their startup CEO, Susan Stai. Read more about Susan...

Cincinnati Cleaning Co-op Gears up for Election of Board Officers as it Prepares to Open

The Cincinnati Cleaning Co-op is preparing to open late this summer. On the job training has begun and as incorporation gets closer, the co-op members have volunteered for positions on the board of directors. Read more...

Sustainergy workers present their Kaizen projects

Sustainergy workers present their Kaizen projects

Kaizen is a Japanese methodology of continuous incremental improvements. With the support of their CUCI mentor, Sustainergy workers have been trained in the art of identifying improvement opportunities, suggesting solutions, implementing them and making them sustainable. An essential component of worker-ownership is being able to propose solutions and see them through. Sustainergy definitely lives up to that standard. Read more about the four projects that were presented this month....

What Our Harvest Means.

What Our Harvest Means.

Building a co-op is tough work, it requires grit, heart, and community. Check out Worker Owner and Assistant Farm Manager Ben Nava’s beautiful reflections.

Why is Bartolo excited to be a Co-Founder of the Cincinnati Cleaning Co-op?

What do you like about the cooperative project? I'm very excited because we're going to be the owners of our work. In a cooperative, things are different from how other companies do business, where they fire you because you are sick or have a complication and cannot come to work one day. Click to read his full interview!