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.
Barbara Finnin is the Administrative Director, managing the Partnership's operations and finances. She has nearly 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.
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).
Mukul Kumar is the Partnership’s Climate Justice Lead. He leads efforts to support climate justice campaigns in cities across the country. His work focuses on advancing a just transition to an energy system that addresses climate change while challenging social, racial, economic, and environmental inequality. Mukul brings a decade of experience organizing labor, community, and environmental campaigns, with a particular focus on racial and economic justice. This work has included campaign development, policy research, and strategic planning in northern and southern California. As a Chancellor’s Fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, Mukul has published articles on urban environments, extractive industries, air and water pollution, renewable energy, and climate change.
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 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.