Yasemin Zahra has spent the last decade coaching workers in both labor and community organizations and building unbreakable worker power around an anti-racist, class solidarity framework. She comes from a village of tea farmers in Turkey and migrated to the states at the age of seven. Her mother is a house cleaner and her father is a truck driver.
As a longtime restaurant worker, she organized in her shops against wage theft and later went to work at the Restaurant Opportunities Center-DC, where she first stepped into the broader labor world. From the service industry to the public and education sector to the building trades, Yasemin has organized with union and non-union workers from all different walks of life and has dedicated her own to building rank-and-file consciousness and collective power to take on abusive employers. She currently serves as the chairwoman.
Chief Financial Officer
Neal Sweeney grew up near Detroit, Michigan and first became politically involved in anti-racist struggles against apartheid in South Africa and in the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. After the onset of US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, he helped organize mass anti-war protests in the Bay Area and on the East Coast, as well as demonstrations for immigrant rights and LGBTQ equality.
After starting work as a Postdoctoral Researcher at UC-Santa Cruz in 2009, he was among the initial organizers of UAW Local 5810, the first stand-alone union for university-based researchers, and has since served as a bargaining team member, Vice President and President. His union has won many unprecedented wins for researchers including 40% wage increases, guaranteed health benefits, paid parental leave, strong protections against sexual harassment and discrimination, increased job security, and expanded bargaining rights for university employees. In 2018, 5,000 more researchers at the University of California voted to join the union, bringing the membership to over 12,000.
Esmeralda Loreto grew up in the working class neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, CA. Her mother was an SEIU Local 99 Union Member while employed as a Child Care Provider and her father was an auto mechanic.
She began political organizing in 2002 as a high school student with the anti-war movement against the US-led War on Iraq and has since extended her solidarity work to other areas of struggle, including immigrants rights and police brutality. She is a Los Angeles based union staff organizer at SEIU Local 721, where she represents LA County Public Sector Workers. Esmeralda also serves as an Executive Board Member of UUP (United Union Professionals).
Joshua Armstead grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in southwest Washington DC. As a young man watching his mother struggle financially with one exploitative job after another, and his own experience in dealing with injustices of temporary work, motivated him to join his union, UNITE HERE Local 23.
Inspired by the story of a worker who told him that “people coming together can create change”, he organized and agitated among his coworkers at Georgetown, and began the task of building the union and doing solidarity actions, including risking arrest with 26 of his colleagues. In the spring of 2015, Josh and his coworkers won a new collective bargaining agreement at Georgetown University. Since then, Josh has traveled across the country as a rank and file organizer for various campaigns, which have raised the standards of living for thousands of workers, union and non-union alike. He always remembers his mother, and hopes that one day, she too can feel the same empowerment that he carries in heart every day.
Josh Armstead serves as Vice President of the DC Chapter of UNITE HERE Local 23, as well as being a delegate for his union at Metropolitan DC AFL-CIO and Northern Virginia AFL-CIO.
Mateos Chekol was born in rural Ethiopia and migrated to northern Virginia at 10 years old. His mom is a hotel maid and his father is a taxi driver, both work in DC. Growing up in a working class immigrant household and reading about African national liberation struggles helped to spark his curiosity about class struggle and anti imperialism. In college he was member of a living wage coalition that won significant raises for campus workers and improvements in working conditions. After college he worked at AFL-CIO as a union researcher and then as an organizer with the National Taxi Workers Alliance. Mateos currently works as labor rep with National Nurses United in El Paso, Texas and has been with NNU for 5 years. Mateos has a decade of experience in the labor movement.
Frank Lara was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents who raised him in the small border town of Calexico, California. Border life, forever changed after 9/11, left an impact on his identity and politics. With the election of Obama and the passage of Prop. 8, the anti-gay marriage resolution in CA, he became active in the anti-war and social justice movements of the Bay Area. Becoming a teacher in 2010 and he quickly became active with the union, the United Educators of San Francisco. He joined the Executive Board of UESF in 2015.
Since arriving to SF ten years ago, Frank has been involved in organizing for the May Day and immigrant rights marches. He participated in numerous coalitions demanding justice for victims of police brutality. In addition to his anti-war work demanding the US stop interventions in the Middle East and Latin America, Frank has also participated in solidarity delegations to Cuba and El Salvador. Currently, he is a 5th grade bilingual teacher at a public school in San Francisco’s Mission District.