A grassroots, environmental justice organization based in San Francisco’s Mission District

Maria de Lourdes Rodriguez

I came to San Francisco about 12 years ago from La Costa Grande, Guerrero, Mexico. Now the Excelsior and Mission Districts are my home. For past two years, I have been an employee-owner at Arizmendi Co-op Bakery in the Mission. When the bakery was opening in the Mission, PODER helped me apply and get the job.

I’m also a (Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union) Local 2 member. At my old job, I saw a lot of my co-workers get laid off because they didn’t have the right documentation. I thought this was unfair because they were all hard workers. That got me fed up so I started getting active in immigrant rights issues.

In had the opportunity to travel to Boston with PODER. I met with people that are creating immigrant-led worker-owned cooperatives. I think there should be a neighborhood center that does this here in my neighborhood. Those most in need can get ahead by working with one another, so we can stop working for exploitative bosses.

Another idea I liked was that many of their economic initiatives invest a percentage of their profits back into their community so they can create more economic opportunities. No more relying on banks or foundations that can shut us down at any time. Just like PODER’s mutual aid cooperative, where we share our talents and skills, helping one another to building community and a resilient economic.

I was moved by the people and organizations that are working to create a sustainable economy. I met people who are fighting for a fair wage while at the same time impacting public policies. I loved getting to know people who are taking care of their bills, their rent, kids, but also fighting for bigger economic justice wins.