Our story is very much connected to our founder’s story, Dr. Alfredo Carlos. Dr. Carlos was born in Mexico and was brought to the U.S. as a child. His parents Alfredo Sr. and Eva worked as a retail clerk and sewing machine operator and they both along with his sisters instilled in him the importance of education. Growing up in a working class immigrant barrio in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles imparted in him a yearning to understand poverty, discrimination and inequality. These very things he experienced growing up are what drove his intellectual curiosity. He attended University of California, Santa Barbara and majored in History and Chicano Studies focusing on working class history, social movements and community organizing. He became involved in organizations seeking social and economic justice and began working with youth of color in after school programs.
While Dr. Carlos loved the work he was doing helping individuals, he also felt that structurally he was not having an impact. He also realized that much of the work he did with the organizations he was involved in (the Living Wage Coalition, La Casa de La Raza, the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in Santa Barbara, United FarmWorkers in Oxnard) was great work, but it wasn’t dealing with developing an economy that empowers people rather than making them powerless. It was around this time that he began to question how he could go about creating change in a way to enact a positive vision of the world. This is when he decided to go to graduate school to study alternative economic models that empower working communities.
Dr. Carlos received his Ph.D. in Political Science with an emphasis on Political Economy. His researched entitled Economic Democracy: From Continual Crisis to a People Oriented Economy, was based on studying the concepts of worker owned cooperative businesses. His interest in the research was on the empowering factor that worker ownership had on the workers and by extension their communities. Having spent 7 years studying the history and theory of cooperatives in 2015 he decided to move from theory to praxis. The Foundation for Economic Democracy was founded in December of 2015 in order to help promote the concept of economic democracy and the models associated with it, but more importantly to help people develop these models. These are models that keep the profits with those that create them and provide dignified wages and working conditions to those that are invested in the cooperatives (the workers). These models allow workers to participate in meaningful ways in the decisions that affect their daily lives.
The Foundation for Economic Democracy aims to teach people about Economic Democracy and more importantly seeks to work with and empower working communities, especially those of color to develop: democratically owned and operated worker cooperatives; community owned land trusts and housing, and in general work towards an economy that allows more participation by those that make it function, the workers. What is most important about all of this is that a democratic economy lets people work and live with Dignity. In all of his past community work this is what Dr. Carlos noticed, that ultimately what people struggle for is Dignity.