The Leadership of The Partnership and the Affiliates
Board of Directors
Darlene, Chair of the Partnership's board, started with CLU in 2006 as a Senior Organizer, became Organizing Director then Co-Director in 2008, and finally Executive Director in 2011, Darlene has been organizing around various community issues since 1996, including police accountability and home daycare justice at Direct Action for Rights and Equality in Providence, RI as well as transportation equity, gentrification and displacement, and education reform at Sisters in Action for Power in Portland, OR. She brings fifteen years' experience in community and youth organizing, leadership development and coalition-building to this work.
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.
Deborah Scott, Vice Chair of the Partnership's board, 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.
Roxana Tynan, Secretary Treasurer of the Partnership's board, 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.
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.
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.
Rev. Holston is the Executive Director of POWER. A recognized community activist, pastor, educator and leader known for advocating for racial and economic justice by promoting fairer workforce development policies, improved job opportunities and skills development for the underserved and disadvantaged in the Philadelphia area. As a leader of POWER, Rev. Holston helped to lead a coalition of faith groups, unions and social justice activists to raise the living wage to $12 per hour for all Philadelphia contracted and subcontractor workers – in particular, the nearly 4000 workers at the Philadelphia International Airport. In May 2014, as one of the leaders in POWER, a city-wide referendum was passed making the living wage for all Philadelphia contracted and subcontracted workers $12 per hour. Rev. Holston helped lead successful fights to unionize airport workers to pass labor piece legislation and city-wide sick leave. As a direct result of his efforts, tens of thousands of Philadelphia workers now have higher wages and better working conditions. Rev, Holston is the Senior Pastor of New Vision United Methodist Church in North Philadelphia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University of Pa., a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University, a Masters of Education degree from Cheyney University and a Masters of Divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. Rev. Holston is experienced as a pastor, businessman, activist, entrepreneur, college professor, speaker and community activist. However, his most important role is serving as a devoted and loving husband to Deborah, his beautiful wife of twenty-seven years, and father to the four children they share, Taheerah, Jamila, Nia and Nasser.
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.
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.
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.
Renae Reese joined CCNE in 2004 to continue the work of bringing community, faith and labor leaders together to advance the collective power of working people. With CCNE she organized for good jobs at Adrean’s Landing, for a better living wage for Hartford and New Haven, and for progressive immigration ordinances. She led the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care through a successful effort with the campaign for healthcare4every1. She has advanced CCNE’s Community Voter Project. Before joining CCNE, Renae was an officer of AFT Local 3837 at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where she led a successful campaign to organize postdoctoral fellows. She worked as a research associate in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Before that she directed ConnectiCOSH, a labor/ community coalition advancing workers’ health and safety. Renae is on the steering committee of Better Choices for Connecticut. She lives in Hartford with her husband David, where they occasionally are visited by their two far-flung daughters.
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.
Syed’s advocacy and activism is rooted in the principle that every person deserves respect and equal opportunity and that change does not come from top-down, but rather bottom-up. One of his core value is to work together in alliances and coalitions for the common and the greater good. Syed knows OCCORD and Orange County well. During his tenure as Chairman of the Board of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, Syed has been steadfast in advocating for a just and fair economy for working families. Syed did not hesitate to challenge powerful corporations when they compromised the rights of workers. He has marched, fasted and put himself at risk of arrest as an expression of his conscience and his belief in fairness and respect for workers. As the Vice President of the board of American Civil Liberties Union (Southern California), Syed works to protect, preserve and defend the civil rights and liberties of every person. As a board member of the Death Penalty Focus, he works to abolish the death penalty in our nation. Syed comes to OCCORD after serving as the Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, where he organized, empowered and mobilized communities for more than a decade. He led the Council to become a leading voice on issues of xenophobia against immigrants and participated in a walking pilgrimage of Dreamers from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Syed holds two masters degrees in the natural sciences and continues to live as a student for life. He is married and has four adult children.
Nicole is the Executive Director at Puget Sound Sage. She has more than a decade of experience in research, advocacy, civic engagement, racial justice organizing, social services, and community and business outreach.
Previously, Nicole was the executive director of the Fair Work Center, a hub for workers to better understand and exercise their legal rights, improve their working conditions and connect with community resources. Before launching the Fair Work Center, Nicole served as the Policy Director at Puget Sound Sage, where she led policy and analysis work on labor standards and environmental justice. Nicole began her career through community engagement and youth engagement roles at the Washington Environmental Council, El Centro de la Raza and the Washington Bus.
Nicole has co-authored several publications on a variety of topics including financial capacity, income taxes, childcare, environmental justice and the economic impact of living wages. Her work has been featured in local, national and international media including the New York Times, BBC, The Guardian and Huffington Post. Nicole holds a Bachelors degree in Public Policy from The College of William and Mary, and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington. In 2014, Nicole received a 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Leadership Award the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and Women's Commission and in 2015 she was named as one of the 15 people Who Should Really Run Seattle by the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.
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.