The Leadership of The Partnership and the Affiliates
Board of Directors
Before joining CPI, Dr. Greene was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at San Diego State University where she taught courses on socioeconomic inequality, race and qualitative research methods. She has served as an instructor in sociological courses on public policy at both Rider University and Stanford University. She was also the Diversity Coordinator for the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (EDGE-SBE) program at Stanford University. Dr. Greene’s past research has focused on social movement messaging/framing, legislative processes and public policies affecting the lives of people of color and people with disabilities. Dr. Greene earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University. She also holds a B.A. in Social Sciences from Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
Derecka Mehrens was named executive director in August 2013. She brings more than a decade of community organizing and civic engagement experience working in communities of color and with low and moderate-income families. As Working Partnerships' organizing director beginning in 2008, she was instrumental in developing organizing and campaign strategies to win policies that improved the lives of workers and their families, including the recent minimum wage increase in the City of San Jose. She led the organization's non-partisan civic engagement programs to engage low-income communities of color in Silicon Valley and statewide in critical public policy issues, particularly budget and fiscal reform issues. She also led community organizing work to improve worker health and safety and increase economic opportunity for workers. Mehrens is responsible for building organizational alliances and maintaining key partnerships with several organizations throughout California, including California Calls, the Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition and the California Domestic Workers Alliance. Prior to joining Working Partnerships she was a director with the California chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), where she set statewide legislative priorities and managed organizing campaigns in 12 regions across the state. Mehrens is currently a board member for the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and California Calls. Mehrens is the daughter of a union construction worker and a community college teacher and is married with two small children. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor's degree in Sociology, History and International Studies.
Amisha Patel serves as Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative and Grassroots Illinois Action, affiliated non-profit organizations working to win racial and economic justice in Chicago and statewide. Both organizations educate and mobilize Illinois residents to build real power for working families, by fighting for living wage jobs, quality public schools, affordable housing, and safe streets, and by connecting these fights to the voting booth. She has served as the director since 2007.
This follows six years at Service Employees International Union Local 73, where Amisha organized hospital employees and Head Start workers, and worked in coalition with community organizations to fight against school closings. She worked for five years doing arts-based violence against women prevention programming in communities of color in the Bay Area. The documentary that her youth created, Young Azns Rising! Breaking Down Violence Against Women, screened in numerous film festivals and won the Asian Emmy for best documentary. Amisha received the 35 under 35 award for Chicago community leaders, the 2014 Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40 award, Chicago Freedom School’s Champion of Justice award, and is in the 2016-7 Rockwood Leading from the Inside Out cohort.
Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy is Executive Director of Pittsburgh United, a coalition of community, labor, faith and environmental organizations committed to advancing the vision of a community and economy that work for all people. In her tenure as managing director and now acting director, Pittsburgh United has won campaigns to organize thousands of low wage workers; dedicate millions of dollars to affordable housing, green infrastructure investment and community benefits; and expanded from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to a footprint that stretches across western Pennsylvania. She also leads Pittsburgh United’s strategic planning and organizational development efforts.
Previously, Ms. Kennedy served as the first executive director of Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates, building the statewide immigrant rights coalition from the ground up. In addition, she has been an organizer, lobbyist, fundraiser and field director on progressive political and issue campaigns.
Anne Barnett is a lifelong Tennessean who has been an advocate for social justice from an early age. She has fought for workers’ rights for over twelve years, beginning as a student organizer with United Students Against Sweatshops, later as a rank-and-file union member and a leader of the local Jobs with Justice chapter, then as an organizer with United Food and Commercial Workers union, and currently as the Campaign and Community Coordinator for the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. She also Co-Chairs Stand Up Nashville, a community-labor coalition focused on equitable development in one of the fastest growing cities in the US.
Over the past 17 years, Matt has played a leading role in devising and implementing cutting-edge civic engagement strategies that increase voter participation in our democracy. Matt also leads in the development and implementation of innovative social media strategies that are integrated into traditional organizing and civic engagement programs. Matt hosts Citizen Action's weekly podcast, Battleground Wisconsin, which features the latest progressive news from Wisconsin. The 5-year-old podcast has built a statewide audience and produced Nealy 300 shows. In 2007 Matt shared (with his colleague Robert Kraig) the "Progressive Innovation Award" from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. In 2004 Matt won the “Forty Under 40” award from the Milwaukee Business Journal, which recognizes up and coming professionals. Before Citizen Action, Matt worked for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, where he was Field Director. He was the Deputy Political Director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Wisconsin State Council from 2000-2005. Matt helped found and lead Milwaukee's Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition which spearheaded historic campaigns to establish job standards for large economic development projects in Milwaukee. The organization merged with Citizen Action in 2009. Matt was raised in Milwaukee and went to Marquette University High School.
Maria Noel Fernandez joined Working Partnerships in 2013 and leads our Silicon Valley Rising campaign as well as our community organizing and civic engagement model. Previously, she worked with the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council on successful local issue campaigns to raise the minimum wage, pass a general tax for county safety net services, and more. She was district director for the previous California State Speaker Pro Tempore and joined that office after spending three years as a community organizer through Sacred Heart Community Service's policy and organizing department where she led successful campaigns to protect senior services, defend immigrant rights and increase resources for the most underserved areas of San Jose. She also spent three years teaching English and Social Studies in Bogota, Colombia after having spent several years working for then City of San Jose Vice Mayor, Cindy Chavez. Maria Noel is also a board member of Californians for Justice and the national Partnership for Working Families.
Esther Handy is the Interim Executive Director at Puget Sound Sage where she is preparing Sage to kick-off a powerful next decade of winning research and advocacy campaigns. Esther joins Sage after organizing donors as the Deputy Director at the Progress Alliance of Washington and nearly ten years as policy and political staff in local government. At the City of Seattle, Esther worked closely with Sage and our allies on campaigns to win Priority Hire, mandatory housing affordability programs, an equitable development framework and raising the minimum wage. Esther developed her own political activism as an anti-racist community organizer and she is committed to centering BIPOC community leadership and racial justice in our progressive movement.
Sheheryar Kaoosji, Founding Co-Executive Director, has been leading the research and organizing in the warehouse industry of the Inland Valley since 2008. Sheheryar leads the research and policy analysis for the organization, as well as the WWRC's civic engagement and community organizing programs. He has over two decades of experience engaged in research in support of organizing in California. He holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from UCLA and a BA from UC Santa Cruz.
Odessa is a native of Nashville, she works diligently to bring positive and equitable change to the Nashville community by serving as co-chair for Stand Up Nashville, a coalition of community-based organizations and labor unions that represent the working people of Nashville who have seen our city transformed by development, but have not shared in the benefits of that growth. She also serves as Nashville Organized for action and Hope (NOAH), Economic Equity & Jobs task force chair. Her work with NOAH has included building one of the largest and most powerful social justice movements in Nashville. She has advocated for the working class and underserved communities in Nashville, issues ranging from affordable housing to establishing the first ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in the state of Tennessee. She believes that Nashville has the potential to be achieve a progressive paradigm shift. A cultural shift in how a traditional southern city becomes a leader in the progressive movement across the country.
Carmen Medrano is the Executive Director at United for a New Economy. Before her time with UNE, she served in varying roles with the Faith in Action Network, including organizing with Colorado Dreamers to pass legislation allowing instate tuition for undocumented students, and leading a variety of civic engagement programs in six states. During her tenure she organized at a national level with Faith in Action’s Campaign for Citizenship, where she trained grassroots leaders to lead efforts across the country for passage of a comprehensive immigration bill. In the Fall of 2014, she brought her expertise and passion for social change to the Central Valley of California, where she most recently led the merger of five separate affiliate organizations into one powerhouse that works to empower grassroots community leaders to address racial, economic, and health equity. Carmen was born in Mexico and came to the United States at the age of 4.
Maricela began with CAUSE as a volunteer with the Ventura County Living Wage Coalition. She came on as staff in 2001, the same year CAUSE began and obtained the organization’s 501c3 status. Since 2001, Morales has worked on a variety of issues ranging from living wage, health coverage for the uninsured, women’s economic justice, green economy and local hire projects. Grateful to her Mexican immigrant parents, Maricela was raised in Ventura County, attended Fillmore public schools and went on to earn a BA in Human Biology at Stanford University and an MA in Counseling (Depth) Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Responding to the need for public officials that prioritize social, economic and environmental justice, Maricela worked with the community to be the first Latina elected to the Port Hueneme City Council in 2002. By 2007 she became the city’s first Latina Mayor. Her commitment to work collaboratively on issues of local, regional and state concern has been recognized by the California Association of Leadership Programs, National Women’s Political Caucus of Ventura County, Pacific Coast Business Times 40 Under 40, Soroptomist Club of Oxnard, and the Ventura County Leadership Academy.
Nelson is the Director of LAANE’s Fair Work Week LA campaign. He was born in El Salvador and has lived in Los Angeles since 1980. He began organizing day laborers with IDEPSCA, and later organized with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), CLEAN Car Wash Campaign, and the United Steel Workers. He later worked as a labor representative representing public school employees with the California School Employees Association (CSEA). Most recently, he worked as an organizer with the New Orleans Worker Center and the National Guest Worker Alliance, organizing immigrant metal workers in New Orleans’ shipyard industry and organizing guest workers around the country.
Kate O’Hara leads EBASE, focused on building powerful partnerships and creating a strong foundation from which staff can drive winning campaigns for change. In her 8th year at EBASE, Kate previously directed the Revive Oakland campaign which won a landmark good jobs agreement for the Oakland Army Base redevelopment in 2012, followed up by a construction careers agreement for AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit Project in 2013. Kate loves spending time with her husband, also a movement activist, reading, playing and having dancing parties with their two young children, Mabel and Miles.
Coalition Organizing Director | Puget Sound Sage
Elena is the Coalition Organizing Director at Puget Sound Sage. She has over two decades of community organizing experience centered in racial and economic justice, multi-sectoral coalition building, and leadership development. Previously, as DIrector of ROC United's Seattle Chapter, she organized restaurant workers around their workplace and immigration rights, and coordinated ROC United's Racial Equity Project to confront occupational racial segregation in the industry. Programs she created include WA Immigrant Solidarity Network's "Immigration (ICE) Know Your Rights Training for Employers", and a unique, community-based "Food Handlers Plus" training, building a partnership with Seattle's Health Department to ensure spanish-speaking food workers learned their workplace and immigration rights as they obtained work permits.
While working in the labor movement, Elena spearheaded UFCW21's Community Organizing Department, a unique model in both the local and national labor movement. She founded and coordinated the Pierce County Community Healthcare Alliance, a people of color led coalition working to ensure that those most impacted by health disparities, primarily low-income consumers and communities of color, have access to quality, affordable healthcare. And she led Washington State's "Making Change at Walmart" coalition work.
Despite the huge challenges we face, these experiences have grounded Elena in a deep faith in the power to make change when movements are led by black, brown, and indigenous people, low-income workers, and frontline communities most impacted by racial, social, and economic injustice.
Deborah Scott is Executive Director of STAND-UP, a “Think and Act Tank for Working Families” that supports community economic development through advocacy for community benefits, project work agreements, and other policies that increase equity and access to opportunity. She is the founder of TRADE-UP, a prep-apprenticeship program that provides a pathway for residents of low-wealth, disadvantaged populations to 21 skilled trades through the AFL-CIO multi-craft training program. Deborah is the convener for Emerald Cities Atlanta, a regional affiliate of the national Emerald Cities Collaborative that supports economic growth and job creation by retrofitting buildings to conserve energy, water and other resources. Deborah is a leading advocate for employing sustainable principles in the effort to expand opportunity and transform disadvantaged communities.
Maritza is the Executive Director of ALIGN. For the past seven years, Maritza has served as the Deputy Director and Campaign Director, as well as the coordinator of Real Affordability for All, the largest affordable housing coalition in the City. During her time at ALIGN, Maritza played a critical role in the Caring Across Generations campaign, helping to secure $1.2 million in funding for undocumented and low income seniors to access home care and the Universal Pre-K campaign which brought the program to many children across New York City. She originally joined ALIGN to prevent Walmart from developing in East New York, leading a four-year fight that successfully halted the company’s plans and brought a union supermarket to the neighborhood. Previously, Maritza worked with the Long Island Progressive Coalition to coordinate the Yes, In My Back Yard (YIMBY) campaign, increasing affordable housing throughout the entire island. A native of Ecuador, Maritza earned her BA in journalism from the Central University of Ecuador and later completed a BA degree in communications from SUNY Old Westbury, where she organized with the New York Public Interest Research Group and United Students Against Sweatshops. She has also worked with Long Island Jobs with Justice on issues related to youth, labor, and immigrant rights where she combined her passion for documentaries, journalism and activism by producing short workers’ rights documentaries.
Roxana Tynan joined LAANE in 2001 and served as deputy director for six years until assuming the position of executive director in February 2012. She has spent her entire career advancing the cause of social and economic justice. Ms. Tynan was the guiding force behind LAANE’s groundbreaking Community Benefits Program, which has pioneered a new model for economic development in Los Angeles and across the country. She negotiated many of LAANE’s Community Benefits Agreements as well as the Los Angeles Superstore Ordinance, which has successfully limited Walmart’s expansion efforts in Los Angeles. Ms. Tynan has been instrumental in the expansion of LAANE’s work and impact over the past decade. She has also played a leading role in developing LAANE’s community organizing department, mentoring dozens of young organizers and creating one of the region’s most effective grassroots recruitment and advocacy programs. Prior to joining LAANE, Ms. Tynan served as economic development deputy to L.A. City Councilmember Jackie Goldberg, working to encourage responsible economic growth. During her tenure with Councilmember Goldberg she helped negotiate the country’s first Community Benefits Agreement, which ensured living wages for hundreds of workers on the Hollywood and Highland development. She also worked with the Yucca Corridor Coalition to fight slum conditions and successfully advocate for the city to build affordable housing and public parks. Ms. Tynan worked as an organizer for the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for four years. A graduate of Yale, she is bilingual in English and Spanish. She lives with her husband and two children in Highland Park.
Born and raised in Boston, Brendan graduated from Harvard and taught English in Chile before enrolling in a Ph.D. program in American Studies at Yale University. While there, Brendan became a leader in the union for graduate-student teachers and researchers, GESO, where he collaborated in campaigns for social justice with Yale's unions of clerical, technical, maintenance, and dining hall employees. More recently, he has directed political and community programs for UNITE HERE!, the hospitality workers union.
Lucas moved to Ventura at the age of 14 and had his first experience volunteering for a nonprofit organization by phonebanking for CAUSE. While attending college at UC Berkeley where he majored in political economy, Lucas worked for CAUSE over two summers, doing research and advocacy for local hire agreements on stimulus-funded projects in 2009 and running CAUSE’s youth fellowship program in 2011. Locally, his work has also included interning with former Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton to pass Measure A, to protect vital city services and coordinating a team of canvassers to put an anti-WalMart initiative on the ballot in Ventura. He has also worked in community organizing in Oakland, CA with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) and the Center for Media Justice, interned for the Obama administration with the White House Council of Economic Advisors, was appointed to the City of Berkeley Labor Commission and served as the chair of the state board of directors of the California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG). After graduating from college, Lucas moved back to Ventura to do research and youth organizing with CAUSE and continues to run the organization’s summer youth fellowship program. He believes strongly in the importance of youth creating the progressive future of Ventura County.