James Razsa, Co-founder, Business Director
James brings a passion for worker cooperatives and organizing to the team. He hails from Gray, Maine, and has a bachelor’s degree in Community Studies and Economic Justice from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His extensive experience in economic justice organizing includes working for Young Workers United, a workers’ center that educates workers and recent immigrants on their rights as employees; the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as both a political organizer and a community organizer; and Jobs with Justice, where he coordinated campaigns that brought together labor, community, faith, student, and immigrant groups. James has also interned for the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives, where he documented models of worker ownership and developed recommendations for expansion and funding models, as well as for Equal Exchange, one of the largest worker-owned businesses in the United States. James until recently was the Director of Campaigns for 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future, a community-led climate justice organization. Last but no less important, James has five years experience in the service industry, including work as a barback, dishwasher, bartender, food runner, event staff, and barista, and he has interned with Jason Taggart, Head Brewer of John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House.
Jason Taggart, Co-founder, Brewing Director
Jason has been working in the brewing industry for 15 years. He trained for eight years with the Seibel Institute of Technology, a prestigious and internationally recognized brewing academy. For the last eight years, Jason has been honing his craft as a Head Brewer of John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, continually learning new and traditional brewing techniques and exploring different aspects of the brewing world. As Head Brewer, Jason is in charge of daily operations, recipe formulation, and equipment repairs and maintenance. He provides front-of-house and brewery training to new workers and helps serving staff improve their knowledge of food and beer pairings. Jason has visited family in and around Scotland and England, as well as several other areas of Europe, learning about beer and the rich culture and history that surrounds it. He enjoys sharing this knowledge with colleagues and beer enthusiasts back home in the Boston area. Jason is also involved in several charity organizations, such as the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises funds and awareness for returning veterans, and ALS TDI, the world’s largest non-profit lab working to fight ALS. He is also involved in the Toots for Tufts golf tournament, a charity that helps raise funds for the Tufts neuro-oncology unit.
Valerie Basnight, Event Manager
Val is a Southern California native with a passion for bringing people together for a good cause. Before moving east, she started a Peer Mentoring program at her high school, was sponsored as a Debutante through the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and spent a summer at Oxford University studying Psychology and Journalism. She attended Simmons College in the Fenway where she majored in Psychology, Sociology, and Gender and Cultural Studies before pursuing a career in Development. She spent ten years in Boston fundraising and planning events for major nonprofits before founding her own business, L.I.R. Productions. Through L.I.R., she has worked with startups like Mobile Monday, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ), and her newest addition, Democracy Brewing. Val is strategic, creative, invested in ensuring a positive experience for those around her, and is so excited to be part of the team.
Ben Waxler, Head Chef
Wax is 14 year veteran of the restaurant business, earning experience at a handful of quality establishments doing pretty much everything - washing dishes, cooking, serving, catering, Cheffing, and managing. After a short-lived second education studying Biomedical Engineering, Wax left Boston University to pursue his passion for cooking at Newbury College, earning a Bachelors Degree in Culinary Management. Over the next six years, he honed his cooking craft at La Morra in Brookline, Ten Tables in JP, and at various fine dining establishments while traveling across the country. Upon returning to Boston, Wax helped open The Haven as Head Chef where he got to design his own menu and kitchen, then was part of the FOH opening team at Trade downtown, then spent a stint at Grass Fed on Centre Street as General Manager.
Wax is excited to bring his passions of delicious, locally-sourced food, fair wages, good working conditions, employee-ownership, and Zero Waste cooking to Democracy Brewing.
Monica Leitner-Lasern, Round Chef
Mónica is a Cambridge native and is passionate about local food and social justice. After graduating from Occidental College, she completed a Masters in bilingual/bicultural education from Columbia Teachers College and began teaching middle school in New York City. There she discovered her passion for teaching history through a social-justice lens, exposing her students to important works like the People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Near the end of her second year, her politics got her fired and she began working at a holistic sex-education nonprofit. For the next 5 years she studied holistic medicine, herbalism, farming, yoga and meditation. In 2014 Mónica decided to combine her interests and founded La Sanghita Café, a small vegetarian/vegan restaurant in East Boston whose mission was to promote health, happiness and peace. Unfortunately the café was not financially sustainable, but its effects can still be felt in the community through related projects like the Eastie Farm and the Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity. Mónica's cooking reflects her Colombian and Jewish heritages and her values of supporting local food production and sustainable practices. She’s looking forward to being part of a democratic and cooperative community at Democracy Brewing.