Lela Klein is the co-founder and executive director of Co-op Dayton, an incubator for worker- and community-owned businesses that broaden economic opportunities and strengthen working class and Black neighborhoods in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Lela has spent her career fighting for economic justice and equity for working people. As a union organizer and then labor lawyer, Lela started her career supporting domestic and international campaigns to build democratic, worker-led organizations. She staffed organizing drives around the country, and worked in the legal department of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), before serving as the first female General Counsel to the IUE-CWA, a 45,000-member manufacturing union. In her years in the labor movement, she led major strategic projects, advocated for workers in legal proceedings and boardrooms, and created a nationally recognized mentorship program to foster leadership among young union activists.
After witnessing the destructive impact of the 2008 recession, Lela felt the pull to move home to use her legal and organizing training to build innovative, worker-centered solutions to help rebuild her city. Alongside thousands of engaged Daytonians, she recently celebrated the opening of a 15,000 square foot grocery store in a former food desert. Lela holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA from Cornell University, and lives with her two children and her partner, who all enjoy board games, competition shows and Dayton trivia.