The Leadership of The Partnership and the Affiliates
Lauren Jacobs is the Partnership's Executive Director. She has been an organizer for 20 years. She began organizing factories with UNITE in the south and later joined SEIU. During her 17 years at SEIU she served in a number of roles, from organizer to 1st Vice President. Over the course of those years, she organized thousands of previously non-union janitors and security officers in three major metropolitan areas. She led contract campaigns for tens of thousands of workers in Boston and the Bay Area, which resulted in breakthroughs in wages, healthcare and other benefits. Lauren's most recent work was with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) as the organization's National Organizing Director. She led the organization's Dignity at Darden Campaign which challenged the world's largest restaurant company to raise wages and improve conditions for its 150,000 direct employees. Lauren also has a long history with Partnership for Working Families' affiliates. She served as a board member of Community Labor United in Boston and worked in coalition with affiliates across California and in Pittsburg and New York. Lauren is a proud native New Yorker, a daughter of Harlem, a fair-weather crocheter, and a pokey runner.
Heather Appel is the Partnership's Communications Director. Prior to joining the Partnership she worked as Communications Director at the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare), where she was part of organizing campaigns that brought an additional 4,000 members into the union. She began her career as a community organizer in the South Bronx, where she organized campaigns for better schools, decent affordable housing, and living wage jobs. She later worked as a reporter at the Herald News and Bergen Record in New Jersey and has also been published in the New York Daily News, the Associated Press, New York City Limits, Time Out New York, and AM New York. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Vassar College and a Master's Degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
Ben Beach is the Partnership’s Legal Director. He works with organizations and local governments in cities across the country in their efforts to transform local economies. This work includes advising and representing campaigns for community benefits and affordable housing and for high road approaches to critical local sectors like construction, waste and recycling, energy efficiency, and goods movement. Ben brings over a decade’s worth of experience as an advisor to community organizations and community-based campaigns for economic justice. He received his J.D. from NYU School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar. Ben lives in the Bay Area with his family and loves exploring the outdoors with his daughter.
Hunter Callahan McFarland is the Partnership's Operations and Executive Assistant, providing essential finance, administrative, event, human resources and technology support. She is a proud member of the San Felipe Pueblo tribe in New Mexico and was born and raised in a rural town in Southern Idaho. Prior to joining our team, Hunter was an intern at PolicyLink and a debate coach at UC Berkeley and The Harker School in San Jose. She has a Master’s degree in Communication from the University of Wyoming where she also received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and American Indian Studies. Hunter has a background in student diversity advocacy and community organizing. Most notably, she was instrumental in the adoption of Wyoming’s first ever local ordinance prohibiting descrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity and sexuality. Outside of work, Hunter loves hiking with her rottweiler mix, Diya, and spending time with her family and partner, Carter.
Barbara Finnin is the Partnership's Finance and Operations Director. She has two decades of experience working with a range of nonprofits, from fiscal sponsorship to health to environment to economic development. After six years of being the Executive Director of City Slicker Farms, a nonprofit that supports low-income communities to meet the basic need for healthy food through urban agriculture, she moved to specializing in nonprofit administration. She worked as a consultant with startup and growing organizations to strengthen all aspects of organizational and financial management. In addition, she provided technical advice and consulting for urban agriculture and food programming and policies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Maryland. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband, Wil, and a backyard full of eight chickens, nine rabbits, two dogs and fruits and vegetables.
Rey Fuentes is a Skadden Fellow at the Partnership for Working Families. His work focuses on organizing and advocating for Bay Area warehouse and logistics workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors. Rey has been active in local workers’ rights advocacy, having served as the editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law and a student director of the East Bay Workers’ Rights Clinic. Before law school, Rey was also a researcher at the San Francisco-based non-profit, Next Generation, where he helped contribute to the passage of AB 1522 (California’s first paid sick leave law) and expand access to California’s Paid Family Leave program. While originally hailing from Wyoming, Rey has caught the California fever, hoping to stay for good with his wife and young daughter.
Felicia is the Partnership’s Deputy Director. She is responsible for strengthening and expanding the network's membership, supporting the leadership development of network staff and affiliates, developing emerging programs, campaigns and strategies that ensure that our local campaigns and organizing add up to building state power. Prior to joining the Partnership, Felicia was the Executive Director of our Colorado affiliate, United for a New Economy. Since 2002, Felicia has worked with labor and community partners on many campaigns, including increasing Colorado’s state minimum wage, increasing Medicaid enrollment for 80,000 children in New Mexico, passing statewide wage theft protection legislation in Colorado and increasing local funding for affordable housing ($150 million) in Denver, Colorado. She has a deep commitment to racial justice, and all the work she does has a goal of reducing disparities for low-income workers and communities of color. Felicia lives in San Antonio, Texas and enjoys spending her free time traveling with her husband and five children (three girls and two boys).
Kathy began organizing hotel workers in NYC with UNITE HERE, where she served as a labor representative and organizer of internal and new organizing campaigns for 7 years. She then became the Director of Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC) for 5 years before serving as the ROC United National Chapter Director. While working with ROC, she helped to win LA's $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, and wage enforcement policy through mobilizing and training worker leaders, organizing workplace and community actions, and diverse coalition-building. Kathy has worked as a coach and trainer for RHIZE where she led popular education on organizing and social movements, and has also served as an AFL-CIO Organizing Institute Training Fellow. Kathy volunteers with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, and enjoys spending time with her child and learning about CA native plants.
Nicole Keenan-Lai is the Partnership’s Senior Development Manager and is responsible for supporting and implementing the Partnership’s fund development strategies. Nicole approaches raising money as community organizing, which she carries into her role. Prior to joining the Partnership, Nicole spent five years working with our Seattle based affiliate, Puget Sound Sage, most recently as its Executive Director, where she quadrupled the reserves and grew the team from seven to fifteen people. Nicole also co-founded the Fair Work Center, which provides know your rights training and free legal assistance to workers. She played instrumental roles in (1) passing $15 minimum wage in SeaTac and Seattle, (2) preventing the construction of a coal export terminal in Grays Harbor County, (3) shaping how labor standards are enforced in Seattle, and (4) founding or shaping half-a-dozen leadership development programs for people of color whose graduates are running for office, leading organizations, and shaping policy across the country. Nicole has served on or established the case to create several local commissions and community oversight boards on a range of issues including: housing affordability, labor standards, and environmental justice. She occasionally lectures at the University of Washington and Seattle University in their public policy and social work programs. Originally from New York City, Nicole also calls Virginia and Seattle home.
Deanna Kitamura is the Partnership's Senior Staff Attorney. She is part of the legal team and works on issues related to state preemption, affordable housing, and community benefits. Prior to working at the Partnership, Deanna was the Voting Rights Project Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. There, she worked on language access and voter protection issues, including redistricting. She has filed cases resulting in cities converting from at-large to district elections and is a co-author of Voices of Democracy: The State of Language Access in California's November 2016 Elections. Deanna has worked on a number of election related legislative measures, including a bill that allows lawful permanent residents to work as poll workers in California. She served on various local and state committees and continues to serve on the California Secretary of State's Language Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Deanna has worked at a variety of nonprofits including Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP), the National Consumer Law Center, and California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA). At WCLP, Deanna focused on affordable housing issues, including redevelopment. She was a generalist at CRLA and worked on a gamut of issues, including eviction defense and wage claims, and created CRLA's farmworker sexual harassment task force. She began her career working on employment discrimination cases at a civil rights litigation firm. Deanna graduated from Pomona College and UCLA School of Law and is licensed to practice law in California.
Elly Matsumura is California Director, working with these seven affiliates and state allies to take statewide power-building to the next level of strategy and impact. She spent 13 years with Silicon Valley affiliate Working Partnerships USA, most recently as Managing Director, leading policy, research, and civic engagement projects; leadership development for elected officials and coalition allies; and the fundraising, communications, and operations team. Elly spearheaded the coalition campaign to pass the nation’s most comprehensive living wage policy, created leadership and governance training programs replicated in over a dozen regions across the country, and provided strategic advising to sister organizations on campaigns for equity in jobs and income, transportation, health, education, and formerly incarcerated workers. As an independent consultant for the County of Santa Clara, she developed the Census 2020 Strategic Plan, which has been recognized as a model for the state. Elly lives in downtown San Jose with her partner, two growing, powerful kids, and a hamster named Pumpkin.
Mariah Montgomery co-leads the Partnership’s national campaign for just and equitable infrastructure and leads its initiatives to propel the future of work towards worker power and equity, with a focus on nonstandard employment and the way technology is changing work and organizing. Before joining the Partnership, Mariah was the deputy campaign director for retail initiatives at the Change to Win (CtW) labor federation, where she led innovative campaigns in retail and telecommunications with an emphasis on corporate strategy, regulation and public policy. At CtW Mariah designed field and online investigations that generated actionable data for stakeholders and regulators. Prior to her work at CtW, Mariah spent five years working with SEIU in Southern California where she developed research and strategy for campaigns to organize subcontracted service workers.
Nancy Smyth is the Leadership Development Director for the Partnership and our largest affiliate, LAANE. She is a Certified Professional Coach and provides one on one coaching to organizational leaders as well as teams and works with Affiliates to vision and plan their work, build capacity, and create systems that help to maximize success and well-being. For 30 years prior to joining the Partnership, Nancy spent most of her career as a lawyer and organizer focusing on the rights of workers in the underground economy, the formerly incarcerated and immigrants. She established the first day laborer program in the country and also organized a dynamic household workers project with its own superhero, SuperDomestica. She loves to swim and to cook.