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Interview with LABWC’s Ready 2 Work program participant.
LAWCN Executive Director Armando Gudino is a public policy professional with more than 20 years of experience focused on public policy and strategic voter engagement.
Armando has worked on more than 30+ legislative bills and statewide initiatives including criminal justice reform, harm reduction, immigration, international relations, and drug policy reform. His work history includes extensive experience in media and communications, such as playing a key role in the launching of the first Bilingual Latino Television network in the US and serving as the first Latino Program Director for public radio KPFK Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, where he was instrumental in expanding Spanish Language public radio in Southern California. Armando’s managed multiple public affairs and newsroom operations over the last 10 years and has worked in various countries as a consultant and advisor, including places like Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Most recently, Armando focused on legislative reform at the state and local level including issues of Latino voter engagement and drug policy where he played a key role in the passage of the landmark Proposition 64 Regulating Cannabis for adults 21 and over. He’s an avid photographer and an amateur astronomer.
La Tonya Harris and Janel Bailey are the Los Angeles Black Worker Center’s co-Executive Director team. With more than 30 years combined of organizational leadership experience and a village of leaders and allies, they have grown the LABWC from an organization to an anchor for a Black worker organizing field in Southern California. They are proud members of the LA Worker Center Network.
Alexandra Suh is the Executive Director of Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA). She has over twenty-five years’ experience in social and economic justice work and holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is Secretary-Treasurer of KIWA’s sister union, the California Restaurant and Retail Workers Union. She also serves on the steering committee of the United to House LA coalition, the board of the National Immigration Law Center, and as a Commissioner of the Housing Authority of the City of LA.
Maria Juur is the Communications Director at the Los Angeles Worker Center Network (LAWCN). Maria was born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia, and immigrated to California in 2014. Prior to joining LAWCN, Maria spearheaded strategic communications and public relations for the Center for Food Safety, a public interest law and environmental advocacy organization working at the intersection of food, farming, climate, and environmental justice.
Previously, Maria worked in the arts, including at art institutions and a film distribution company. She is also an accomplished electronic musician and a DJ who has toured internationally and been featured in countless media outlets, including The New York Times and The Guardian.
Maria holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from the Estonian Academy of Arts and a Master’s degree in Aural and Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is a recent graduate of Social Movement Technologies’ year-long Advanced Certificate Program in Digital Campaigning. Maria is also a certified yoga teacher.
Sheheryar Kaoosji is the Executive Director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. He has spent 20 years developing research, policy and campaign strategies to support deep and sustained organizing among the most marginalized and critical communities in California, including families facing displacement in San Francisco, farm workers in the state’s agricultural valleys, misclassified truck drivers at the Port of Los Angeles and, for the past 10 years, workers and communities affected by the massive warehousing and logistics sector of Inland Southern California. He was behind the WWRC’s innovative campaign model to organize workers in the supply chains of the largest companies in the world, and the WWRC’s broader communities to demand a sustainable and just goods movement sector in Southern California.
Marissa Nuncio has been building power with garment workers since 2001 when she joined Sweatshop Watch, a co-founding organization of the GWC, where her role was to support the newly established Center and its first campaigns. Inspired by work at the intersection of law and organizing, Marissa went on to earn her Juris Doctorate at Loyola Law School and is a member of the National Lawyers Guild. She has represented unions, car wash workers, day laborers, and farmworkers and is proud to have returned to the GWC in 2013 to help frame its strategic organizing direction with its members and amazing staff. Marissa holds a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies from Mount Holyoke College.
Manuel is the Regional Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA). He leads comprehensive organizing campaigns to help workers win respect and dignity at their restaurants, including training and education for worker leaders, media work in English and Spanish, direct actions, and legal strategy. He has community organizing experience as a peer educator for LGBTQ Organizations, developing leaders in the Latino LGBTQ community in Long Beach, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and as a member organizer for ROC-LA before joining the staff team. He also has over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.
Aquilina Soriano Versoza is a founder and current Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, a nonprofit serving and organizing the low-wage Pilipino immigrant community in Los Angeles. Aquilina has been a leader in the growing domestic worker movement in California and nationally through advocacy, enforcement, workforce development and cooperative strategies.
Aquilina served for 3 terms as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and is one of the founders of COURAGE Homecare worker-owned cooperative agency. She is also a fellow at Rutgers University for the Build the Base program of the Workplace Justice Lab and an MIT Mel King Fellow focused on Centering Equity in Long-term Care. Aquilina currently sits on the Executive Committee for the California Workforce Equitiy Initiative Taskforce and has sat on various committees address racial inequities related to COVID-19 pandemic response programs. She was the recipient of the 2018 Frederick Douglass 200 Abolitionist award. She earned her BA in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Ernesto Hidalgo is the Policy Director at the Los Angeles Worker Center Network. Ernesto’s breadth of experience traverses across a wide range of policy sectors centered around low-wage workers. He works in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, including LAWCN members and low-wage workers, legislators, government officials, employers, nonprofits, community members, and media to design, advocate, and implement policies that are responsive to the needs of workers and their families.
A native of South and Central LA neighborhoods, Ernesto is shaped by the experiences of his immigrant family and the neighbors, coworkers, and friends he lived alongside in these Black, immigrant, refugee, and working-class communities. His formative experiences also include the systemic socioeconomic, political, and racial injustices highlighted by the 1992 LA Riots, as well as the public scapegoating and anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee policies personified in Propositions 187 and 209—experiences which inspire and inform Ernesto’s service today.
In recent years, Ernesto has served as a commissioner on LA city’s rent adjustment commission and as an appointee on Metro’s Local Service Council, Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance, and LADWP’s 100% Renewable Energy Working Group. He is an active member of the LA100 Equity Strategies project designed to combat the climate crisis by transforming the nation’s largest municipally-owned utility company, building the required physical and human infrastructure, and creating an equitable, sustainable, and green new economy for all stakeholders. Ernesto is also an active participant in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Housing Policy Leadership Academy.
Ernesto is a graduate of California State University, Northridge, where his focus areas included Chicano/a studies, business, and economics. At CSUN, he was a student co-founder of the first Central American Studies program in the U.S. He also attended the School of Enterprise Management and Social Impact at American Jewish University.
Yvonne Garcia Medrano is an attorney with Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Employment Rights Project, where she represents low wage workers in their wage theft claims and assists worker centers’ by providing legal guidance to their members. Previously, Yvonne worked at the CA Department of Industrial Relations as counsel to the Director. Prior to that she worked as a Legal Organizer with the CLEAN Carwash Campaign. Yvonne graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2007 and from Southwestern Law School in 2012.
Flor Rodriguez is a workers’ rights advocate who brings over 12 years of experience in coalition building, organizing, and leadership development to CLEAN. Flor joined CLEAN as a Community Organizer in 2012 but quickly took great leadership. As Executive Director, Flor led CLEAN’s transformation from a campaign into the CLEAN Carwash Worker Center. Prior to CLEAN, Flor worked at the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), conducting community outreach to businesses around the day laborer movement. She soon became the Program Manager for IDEPSCA’s six (6) Day Laborer Centers. Flor immigrated from Durango, Mexico, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1992. She is the daughter of immigrant workers and the eldest of two siblings. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband and son.