Board of Directors

President, Rev. Larry DowlingBoard 2013

is the pastor of St. Agatha Parish and St. Agatha Catholic Academy in Chicago’s North Lawndale community, having previously served at Chicago’s St. Denis Parish and St. James in Arlington Heights. He received his Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in 1998 and is dean of Deanery III-D. He is a ’97-‘98 alumnus of Leadership Greater Chicago. He serves on the Board of Consultors to the Cardinal, the Anti-Racism Implementation Team for the Archdiocese, the Priests for Justice for Immigrants, Archdiocesan School Board and the Tolton Scholars Advisory Board. He currently serves on the Board for the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention (ICVP) and Sankofa Safe Child Initiative. He is actively involved in local community organizing efforts. He has served as Chair of the Association of Chicago Priests (ACP), currently serving as editor of UPTURN, a bi-monthly publication of the ACP. He is a published writer, avid reader, backpacker, hiker and bicyclist.

Vice President, Benetta Mansfield

practiced as a union-side labor lawyer for over 30 years, most recently as Chief of Staff for the Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington, D.C., where she also served on several committees for the AFL-CIO. Mansfield was previously Chief of Staff of the National Mediation Board, and directed the election of International Officers in the court-supervised election for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Benetta relocated to Chicago two years ago and has been active in several Arise campaigns including the car wash campaign.  Benetta is also on the national board of AVODAH, the Jewish service corps.

Secretary, Jennifer Barger Williamson

is the Director of Development for People’s Resource Center, an agency serving low-income residents of DuPage County. A member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jennifer previously worked for the denomination’s World Hunger Appeal. Jennifer has served on the staff of Arise Chicago, during which time she coordinated Labor in the Pulpits and organized faith community support for union campaigns in the Chicago area.

Treasurer, Sarah Hainds

is a researcher at the Chicago Teachers Union, where much of her research focuses on the negative effects of the privatization of public education and the inequities in funding and support for neighborhood schools in low-income neighborhoods devastated by gentrification. Prior to the CTU, Sarah worked at Teamsters Local 743, where she was responsible for communications and office management. Sarah has a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy from UIC with a concentration in community development.

Dr. Bob Bruno

is Director of the Labor Education Program and a Professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois.  In addition to publishing numerous scholarly articles, he has authored many research reports and three books: Steelworker Alley: How Class Works In Youngstown (1999), Reforming the Chicago Teamsters: The Story of Local 705 (2003) and Justified by Work: The Meaning of Faith in Chicago’s Working-Class Churches (2008). Bob is a frequent commentator on labor relations for both regional and national media including numerous newspapers. He teaches many labor relations courses, specializing in labor history and American politics, and has given numerous public presentations on labor relations.  Bob recently published a comprehensive report on Chicago’s car wash industry, entitled “Clean Cars, Dirty Work.”

Rocio Caravantes

is a member of the Arise Chicago Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee. She came to Arise because of violations of safety and discrimination at her workplace. After attending a Worker Rights Workshop, and leading a campaign to improve conditions at her workplace Rocio has become one of the Worker Center’s most involved leaders. She has spoken to the media about wage theft and the need to increase the state minimum wage with the Raise Illinois campaign. She is an OSHA trainer and has trained numerous workers on health and safety.

Halil Demir

was born in South Eastern Turkey and was very active in social issues in his community as a student. He moved to Switzerland to obtain his degree in Sociology from the University of Basel. In 1997, he moved to America, and has earned a Masters Degree in History, as well as a Masters in Nonprofit Management. In 2001, Mr. Demir helped found the Zakat Foundation and serves as its Executive Director. Zakat Foundation is a U.S.-based Muslim relief organization that provides immediate relief during and after disasters; building and supporting schools, orphanages and health clinics; supporting community development programs and micro-credit; and providing Ramadan Iftars and food distribution. Zakat has been selected as a Top 5 Finalist in Disaster Relief and International Aid. Demir lives near Chicago with his wife and four daughters.

Maria Garcia

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee. After attending a Worker Rights Workshop and working with an organizer, she successfully resolved two different wage theft campaigns at former workplaces. Since then, Maria has become one of the most active Worker Center members. She has participated in coalition actions with Stand Up! Chicago and Raise Illinois, including traveling to Springfield to advocate for an increase in the state minimum wage.  Maria is also an OSHA ergonoics and health & safety trainer. She has connected Arise to local community groups and her children’s elementary school, where she is a Local School Council member, to host workshops.

Ricardo Garcia

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Car Wash Worker Organizing Committee. He first became involved in the car wash campaign after attending the campaign launch and industry report release event in 2012. Ricardo has presented the campaign to community allies and labor groups, including at a conference on new forms of worker organizing, where he met AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Ricardo is originally from Mexico City, where he studied chemical engineering before coming to the U.S.

Laura Garza

is VicePresident of SEIU Local 1 and the Director of the Commercial Division. For 14 years, Laura has represented janitors in Chicago Public Schools, city of Chicago, and commercial buildings in the city and suburbs. As part of her other responsibilities at Local 1, she is spearheading the campaign for immigration reform in conjunction with the SEIU International.  Laura has worked with Arise Chicago on immigration reform.

Gerald Blake Hankerson

is the Outreach Coordinator at the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) where he administers internship, volunteer activist and youth programs, interfaith engagement, public awareness events, and community outreach. A native of the Oakland and Hyde Park neighborhoods, he is a graduating President’s Scholar of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is currently completing a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Theater.  Gerald is a freelance copy editor, author, writer, actor, and debate coach. He is committed to bringing his experiences with mentoring youth, volunteerism, research and social critiques to bridging gaps between interfaith and diverse communities.

Dr. Larycia A. Hawkins

is Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Wheaton College and is the co-editor of Religion and American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Her active research agenda includes projects exploring how black theology frames black political rhetoric and is reflected in black political agendas like those of the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP and considerations of the political activism of black congregations outside the black church (i.e. black Catholic parishes, United Church of Christ). Prior to academia, Larycia worked in state government administering federal programs, including the Social Security Disability Programs and the Community Development Block Grant.

Karen Leyva

is a member of the Worker Center. She worked at Rolf’s Patisserie for 12 years, until it was suddenly closed, at which point she became a leader among the group of 135 workers, leading actions, speaking to the media on a regular basis, and organizing her co-workers for over one year. She led the group’s winning back wages from bounced final paychecks and a settlement for compensation through a WARN Act case. In addition to her own campaign, Karen has been involved in the Chicago Fight for 15 campaign supporting downtown fast food and retail workers.

Ana Laura Lopez

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee. She first came to Arise with a group of workers from a secondhand store, looking to address health and safety violations, and disrespect from managers. After attending a Worker Rights Workshop, she organized her co-workers and they walked out demanding better working conditions. Since then, they have formed an independent workers’ association at their store, and made significant steps to improve overall conditions. Through AriseChicago, Ana Laura is an OSHA trained workplace ergonomics health and safety trainer and provides workshops to low-wage workers across Chicago.

Rudy Lozano Jr.

has supported efforts to advocate on behalf of displaced workers, worked alongside parents to establish safe passages for elementary students, and has advocated for the development of recreational green spaces in the dense residential and commercial areas of Little Village and Lawndale. Lozano has organized youth and families to voice their concerns regarding issues of violence, labor, immigration and education and has promoted anti-violence initiatives. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Community and Youth Organizing at Northeastern Illinois University and is in the process of completing his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Rev. Michael Mann

is the Associate Director of Mission and Advocacy for the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church. He previously served as a local church pastor for 7 years. Michael has worked with the National Interfaith Worker Justice office on various worker justice campaigns, including the Poultry Justice Project and assisted on the Worker Rights Manual. Additionally, Michael did mission development work for a year and a half in Nagpur, India, with the National Council of Churches in India. Among his degrees, the most recent is an MBA from Northern Illinois University (2010). Michael has helped the message of faith-labor solidarity reach hundreds of clergy, especially during the recent upsurge in the Midwest.

Isabel Mendez

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee.  She first came to Arise after being fired as a domestic worker, and owed $10,000 in unpaid wages. In addition to leading her own wage theft campaign which included delegations and press conferences, she stayed involved in several other Arise and coalition campaigns. Isabel has traveled to Springfield multiple times to advocate for an increase in the state minimum wage with Raise Illinois, and for passage of an Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. She has also met with Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Nancy Pelosi to discuss the national Caring Across Generations campaign and federal legislation addressing caregivers and care recipients.

Rev. Liz Muñoz

is an Associate Priest at Saint James Cathedral in Chicago. She previously served as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Hollywood and Associate Rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood. She also collaborated with other priests and lay leaders working in Latino ministry  to form the Hispanic Leadership Institute in Los Angeles. Rev. Muñoz was ordained to the priesthood in 2005. She received her MDiv from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX after having left 18 years in the teaching profession. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Princeton University and later completed coursework for teaching credentials in Bilingual General and Special Education.  Rev. Muñoz was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the working class Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in East L.A.

Robert G. Reiter, Jr.

was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor in 2010. He is a third-generation member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and previously served as an organizer, business representative and field attorney responsible for negotiating collective bargaining agreements for public-sector members in the Municipalities Department. Previously, Reiter worked for the Indiana Illinois Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, a labor-management cooperation committee. While at the IIIFFC, Reiter concentrated on issues such as prevailing wage, employee misclassification and responsible bidding at both the grassroots and legislative levels.

Monika Starczuk

is the former Program Manager for the “Uniting America” campaign at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).  She led Illinois’ largest integration project aiming at building bridges between native-born Illinoisans and immigrants through volunteerism and community service. Prior to ICIRR, Monika organized voter registration drives in Latino and Polish communities. In 2006, she became the citizenship organizer at the Albany Park Neighborhood Council and worked extensively with Latino, Asian and Muslim communities. In 2007 she co-founded Polish Initiative of Chicago, a grassroots community organization committed to empower Polish immigrants and Polish-Americans through education and leadership development. Monika emigrated from Poland in 2002 after receiving a degree in political science from Warsaw University.

Rev. John Thomas

teaches and serves in various administrative capacities at Chicago Theological Seminary, a seminary related to the United Church of Christ in Hyde Park. From 1999 to 2009 he served as the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Prior to that, John was the denomination’s ecumenical officer for eight years and a pastor in local churches in Pennsylvania and Connecticut for 17 years. He is a graduate of Gettysburg College and Yale Divinity School. His primary involvements with issues of worker justice have been guiding UCC support for initiatives of the National Farm Worker Ministry.

Rev. Wendy A. Witt

is Associate Pastor for Social Justice at the First United Methodist Church of Chicago and Chicago Temple.  She received her Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Theological Seminary in Evanston in 1987. She has served city, suburban, small town, and rural congregations. She has also served as the United Methodist campus minister at Northern Illinois. A major portion of the focus of Rev. Witt’s work at the Temple is to engage the church in the public arena around issues of social justice and equity. She is married to Don Floyd, who is a community organizer.



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