<![CDATA[Fresh Tamales - Blog]]>Fri, 26 Feb 2016 15:30:31 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Why a Cooperative?]]>Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:43:51 GMThttp://www.fresh-tamales.com/blog/why-a-cooperativeLately we have been receiving calls from friends in Ohio, Florida and Texas inquiring about Fresh Tamales and asking how they might start their own tamale cooperative.  We give them as much advice as we can, but remind them that we have only been operating for about a year.  Today I spoke with Marisa, a young Chicana activist in Dallas, Texas.  She believes that the cooperative model if properly applied could open up many doors for immigrants that are unavailable with corporations or private enterprise.  One example of the latter, she said, is Mary Kay cosmetics. “Sure, the women can make some money,” she added, but the whole system is so exploitative. What I want is to empower women!”  You seldom find that happening in low wage jobs where there is little opportunity for personal or economic growth. 

                                           Fast Food Workers

As I write this, thousands of fast food workers and their supporters are conducting protests and sit ins at McDonalds and other fast food restaurants.  They complain that the low wages prevent them from supporting their families, despite the super profits of their employers.  They want a basic minimum wage of $15 an hour for a start.  The response of the employers is not surprising.  A spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association called the protesters “professional agitators” and claimed that the fast food restaurants “train America’s workforce and provide a pathway towards upward mobility and success.”   On the other hand, several cities now have initiatives to increase the minimum wage, and in his speech on Labor Day, President Obama said:  “There is no denying a simple truth:  America deserves a raise.”

                                         A Cooperative Culture

Here in Southern California, there are few cooperatives.  But in the San Franciso Bay Area, cooperativism is thriving.  The oldest is the Cheese Board in Berkely, founded in the 1970s by two young men who traveled to Israel and learned cooperativism on a kibbutz.  There are also bakeries, food co-ops, technology co-ops, even a bicycle manufacturing co-op. One of the most successful co-ops is W.A.G.E.S. (Women’s Action to Gain Economic

Security).   They have organized several housecleaning cooperatives that have dramatically improved the lives of immigrant workers for almost two decades.  All the above co-ops belong to an association called the Network of Bay Area Worker Co-ops (NABAWCS). 

Worker owned cooperatives have helped revitalize inner cities in places such as Cleveland and Detroit, and they are also commonplace in many southern states.  They help each other financially, share technology and provide trainings and workshops.    

All cooperatives share a common set of principles that serve as the foundation for a broader cooperative movement worldwide:
1)     Open and voluntary membership.
2)     Democratic member control.
3)     Member economic participation.
4)     Autonomy and independence.
5)     Education, information and training.
6)     Cooperation among cooperatives.
7)     Concern for community.

These principles are extremely important. Work and responsibilities have to be shared. We have to continually educate ourselves about the need for solidarity and for respecting each other’s talents.  Once that trust solidifies, you have a true co-op.  It’s not easy. It is a work in progress. But it is rewarding, and it has a wonderful effect on the local community.     

                                      --  Mark Day, coordinator,  Fresh Tamales 
<![CDATA[FRESH TAMALES GOES TO CHICAGO]]>Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:10:44 GMThttp://www.fresh-tamales.com/blog/fresh-tamales-goes-to-chicago
IN CHICAGO:  Eddie Gomez of Fresh Tamales is flanked by Rebecca Kemble of the Union Cab Cooperative, Wisconsin (left), and (right) Melissa Hoover, executive director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives.  Kemble was just elected president of the USFWC board of directors.

Eddie “Lalo” Gomez, acting general manager of Fresh Tamales, attended the Worker National Cooperative Conference May 30-June 1 in Chicago.

The conference, sponsored by the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, brought together worker cooperators, developers, funders, financiers and public figures to discuss the building of a democratic ownership economy.  Mark Day discussed the conference with Eddie:

 Mark Day:   What did you learn in Chicago?

Eddie Gomez:   Well, I found out that there are not many worker co-ops in Southern California, or for that matter in the Southwest.  There are a few, though, that are well developed. What we need to do is to get organized and reach out to them. We can learn from them.  We can imitate what they are doing, and in this way help out our communities.  

Day:  Why are these co-ops successful, and what are they doing?

Gomez:  Well, for one thing, they have been able to raise funds. People don’t know that you can apply for these economic development grants from your local municipalities. There are many ways to access these funds in order to grow a co-op.

Day:  There are lots of co-ops in the San Francisco Bay area, aren’t there?

Gomez:  Yes, and they all help each other out.  There are bakeries and bicycle shops—all kinds of cooperatives.  We need that down here in San Diego County.

Day:  What other information did you pick up at the conference?

Gomez:  I  learned that once a co-op gets off the ground, it creates jobs. This helps develop a community economically.  It’s hard for some people to get a job.  For some a co-op job is a second chance.  We can also help busy people, like single mothers who have to take care of their kids, but who can work part time.  A co-op enables them to make their own hours.

Day:  Do you see Fresh Tamales as a means for helping people get out of poverty here in North County San Diego?

Gomez:   Yes, definitely.  It’s a means of teaching self-empowerment.  Why sit around at home and complain about not having a job when you can do something about it? Just get up, and if you have an idea, give it a try and move forward. Sitting around isn’t going to accomplish very much.

Day:  Did they talk very much at the conference about the cooperative being a democratic workplace, with each worker having one vote?

Gomez:  Yes, we did.  A democratic workplace is definitely a lot better than a non-democratic one.  We make our own hours.  We have to talk together and come to an agreement on certain things.  Right now it’s a lot of hard work, but the fact is that we are breaking even at the early stage of our co-op.  That motivates us to move forward.  It opens up possibilities.

Day:  Where do you want Fresh Tamales to be in the future—say in a year or two from now?

Gomez:   Maybe three years from now we can have our own store front.   We can have our tamales available on a daily basis.  And maybe we can branch out and do real traditional Mexican food from different parts of Mexico.   I am from Oaxaca.  We have other members from Guanajuato, Chiapas, and other states.   A food truck would also be great.  Right now we are serving at breweries, but if we had a food truck we could provide many other dishes and recipes.

Day: So you are basically optimistic?

Gomez:  Yes, and it helps to belong to organizations like the U.S. Federation of Worker Co-ops.  There are lots of opportunities to communicate with them through the social media. In fact one of their reps is going to visit us soon. And right now we have a new West Coast representative. That’ a step forward.

Day:  You had co-op leaders from Europe at the Chicago conference.

Gomez:  Yes, there was a wonderful  woman from Italy who spoke at the conference. I didn’t realize that co-ops have been around since the 1930s.  It impressed me that all the co-op in Italy donate about 10 per cent of their earnings to a retirement fund. They are really helping their community by contributing this money.

Day:  So you have decided that you are going to reach out more to the local communities here in north County.

Gomez:   Yes.  I want people to see that we are trying to help them out—that we can do fundraisers for them. We just reached out to a local high school for a fundraiser.  It  was very successful. We hope to do more of that.

<![CDATA[Tamale making:  It’s hard work!]]>Mon, 10 Feb 2014 20:43:29 GMThttp://www.fresh-tamales.com/blog/tamale-making-its-hard-workWith a growing demand for tamales, the Fresh Tamales staff is spending
more time at the Pilgrim Church kitchen in Carlsbad.  

Usually, the meat (chicken and pork) is braised the night before.  The next day
the cooks prepare the ingredients:  chopping the chiles, tomatoes, onions,
spinach, mushrooms etc. and making the sauces from the red chiles and
tomatillos.  After cooking the vegetables, the cooks prepare the masa
in large bowls, then spread it onto the corn husks with the rich,
tasty sauces.  Then comes the folding and wrapping process.       
Recently,  Juliana Rico, a San Diego State Journalism Student and
writer for La Prensa San Diego stopped by the kitchen to interview Lupe
Acevedo, her son, Eduardo “Lalo” Gomez, and Freda Chaban.
Left to Right: 
Lupe Acevedo & Juliana Rico
Left to Right: 
Eddie "Lalo" Gomez and Juliana Rico
Freda also serves as Fresh Tamales’ marketing director, and has
booked several local breweries for tamale sales.  Said John Webster, owner of
the Aztec brewery in Vista, Calif., “These are the best tamales
north of the border.  Hands down!”  

Please check our schedule and invite your friends to come by one of the breweries for a brew and a plate of tamales! 

Click here to read the La Prensa article: Mujeres en la Lucha

<![CDATA[What’s a cooperative?]]>Tue, 28 Jan 2014 19:08:37 GMThttp://www.fresh-tamales.com/blog/whats-a-cooperative
Quite often, when we explain to people that we are a worker-owned cooperative, we get blank stares, followed by the question:  “What’s that?”  It’s understandable, because cooperatives are not that well known around Southern California.  The closest thing locally is the Pacific Beach Food Co-op in San Diego, which is a consumer, not a worker-owned co-op.

The opposite is true in northern California, especially in the S.F. Bay Area where there are scores of co-ops from bakeries to bicycle and cheese shops, employing from a handful to 200 workers. They are part  of the Network of Bay Area Cooperatives (NOBAWC), which provides technical and financial assistance, as well as marketing tips and discounts to its members.

So what exactly is a cooperative?  First of all it’s a democratic workplace. Unlike a private investment business, each member has one vote. All decisions are made collectively.  Profits are shared equally, according to the time and effort each member contributes to the company.  Surplus funds are used to buy supplies and equipment, and  extra funds are distributed to our members on an annual basis.  

Informal forms of cooperation existed in ancient times, but formal cooperatives began in the 18th and 19th centuries with the advent of the industrial revolution.  In 1843, a group of textile workers in Rochdale, England founded the first cooperative store to escape exploitation from other store owners who sold shoddy merchandise at inflated prices.. 

The Mondragon corporation, one of the world’s most successful cooperative movements was founded by the Rev. Jose Maria Mendezarriata a Spanish Jesuit, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. It now has many thousands of members and is a leading manufacture of automobiles and appliances with global outreach.  Mondragon experts have also mentored several co-ops in the United States, including the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in an inner city Cleveland, Ohio  neighborhood.        

Father Mendezarriata established a set of principles to guide his cooperative. Among them are open admission to all workers, regardless of race, politics or religion; participatory democracy in management (one worker, one vote); cooperation among cooperatives; social transformation and education. 

We at Fresh Tamales emulate these principles.  We hope that the public will buy our tamales not only because they are the best available, but to support our democratic workplace and to improve our community.