Close to Home: Amy’s Kitchen gave me a chance

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

I started at Amy’s Kitchen over 20 years ago as an hourly employee in Santa Rosa. I am now the plant manager and can’t believe the things that are being said about us. I’m moved to tell my story and share more about the Amy’s I know and love.

I moved to the United States in 2001 as a refugee, leaving my home country of El Salvador. When I moved here, I didn’t know the language or culture and didn’t know how I would support my family. Amy’s gave me a chance. I was hired onto a packaging line, and I met our owner, Andy Berliner, who always made me feel at home and cared for.

Noe Mojica
Noe Mojica

Amy’s invested in me from the beginning. Amy’s provided the opportunity to learn English and other training that helped me advance to a supervisory role in the warehouse. The leaders listened to my ideas, and I was given the opportunity to manage production, packaging and the kitchen. Amy’s supported my education at Santa Rosa Junior College. I attended Amy’s Leadership Academy to continue my growth and development as a leader. And today I have the privilege to lead the Santa Rosa plant and support more than 600 people.

This care isn’t unique to me. It stems from our first core value: to take care of each other. It’s in everything we do. I remember when Berliner asked me over 10 years ago how we could create better health care for our people. He learned that too many people were not using primary care due to language and other challenges. Chronic conditions were developing. We built an on-site bilingual health center that gave every employee and their families high-quality primary care at no cost.

When the wildfires devastated our community, we moved fast to take care of people. I pulled together our supervisors, and we called every employee to check in on their safety. For those who lost homes, we grieved together and provided housing, food and other support. We provided meals to evacuated residents, first responders and people in shelters. Our employees built a relief center at the plant to collect furniture, toys, clothes and other essentials for displaced families. In this moment of tragedy, I was proud to be part of a company that cared so deeply for the community.

And there may be no more significant crisis than COVID. When the pandemic hit, Berliner said “all that matters is we keep our people safe.” We did just that. We sourced masks from Day One, before any government orders. We changed our plant design, added social distancing and discontinued products that couldn’t be made with proper distancing. We invested in an on-site vaccine clinic where 98% of our employees were vaccinated.

We don’t just show up this way in crisis; this is how we care for people every day. Our employees have made many safety suggestions that we implemented, from providing chairs on the lines where possible, to eliminating the repetitive lifting of soybeans, to eliminating the need for employees to stir food in the freezer.

Yet some suggest we don’t care about safety, that we don’t care for injured workers, that we put profit over people. It isn’t true.

My mom works on our production line. Other family members too. Many employees bring their families and friends to work here. We all care deeply about the health and safety of each other. And if someone gets hurt at the plant or at home, we support them.

I know the names of our employees. Each day, I walk through the plant and listen to them. We work together to make our work as safe as possible. I’m proud of the progress we have made over the years to keep our people safe. Last year, our safety performance was twice as good as the industry standard, and we are trying to improve every day.

The way we care for our people isn’t being talked about in the community right now. But it matters. And while I understand there is a union campaign against us, it doesn’t change the truth about who we are. And that’s a place where the average tenure is over 12 years. People stay at Amy’s because we take care of each other.

I am incredibly proud to have dedicated the past 20 years to Amy’s. I encourage you to get to know us.

Noe Mojica is plant manager of Amy’s Kitchen in Santa Rosa.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

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