Kristen Barker is the president and co-founder of the Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative (CUCI). Using a model passed on from the Mondragon Corporation, Kristen is helping Cincinnati be a leader in the worker-owned co-operative movement. She is involved with supporting a range of community efforts to create family-sustaining jobs, from a farm providing food to families and neighborhoods, to a jewelry-making and entrepreneurial education initiative supporting women on the margins called “Sarah Center.” CUCI creates jobs that are accountable to workers and the area’s communities by developing and launching worker owned businesses based on the Mondragon-United Steel Workers Union co-op model (worker ownership + solidarity and collective bargaining). CUCI has launched four co-ops and has additional projects in various stages of feasibility/business planning. The first co-op, Our Harvest, has been growing food, training new farmers and aggregating food from other local growers since April of 2012. Sustainergy, an energy-retrofitting co-op, was launched in 2014. Apple Street Market, also launched in 2014, is the first in a network of full service grocery stores envisioned for low food-access areas. Renting Partnerships, an innovative approach to affordable housing that builds equity and community for renters, is also a part of the CUCI family. Since July of 2012, Kristen has been working for Mondragon USA and 1worker1vote.org to build a national network of unionized worker-owned co-operative businesses to overcome inequality of opportunity, mobility and income. Prior to working full-time for the union co-op movement, Kristen worked at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) for 12 years as a community organizer.
Conversation with Michael Peck and Kristen Barker John and Peter talk with Michael and Kristen about how co-operatives are emerging as powerful forces of change and the role citizen-workers have in bringing new opportunities and family-sustaining jobs to local neighborhoods. Michael...