Leadership

Joshua Armstead

Joshua Armstead

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.

John Braxton

John Braxton

John Braxton began a lifetime of activism during the movement against the war in Vietnam. 1968 he sailed from Japan to North Vietnam to deliver medical supplies to civilians victims of the US war. Shortly after that he became a leader in the Philadelphia peace movement and announced his refusal to cooperate with the military draft that made the war in Vietnam possible. For that he was sentenced to 30 months in Federal prison, and served 17 months before being paroled.

While finishing graduate study in ecology he took a job working for UPS and became involved with Teamsters for a Democratic Union. In 1995 he went to work for the reform administration in the Teamsters, where he helped to lay the groundwork for the 1997 national UPS strike, the victory of which created 10,000 new full-time jobs at UPS. He teaches biology at Community College of Philadelphia, where for thirteen years he has been the co-president of the union representing 1300 faculty and staff, AFT Local 2026. He was one of the founders of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, where he serves as Treasurer.

In 2002, John proposed to the Philadelphia AFL-CIO a resolution against the impending war in Iraq, which influenced the national AFL-CIO to approve a resolution opposing the war. He was one of the early founding members of US Labor Against the War, and is currently one of the convenors. In January of 2016, John was the organizer of the Labor Convergence on Climate, the first national gathering of labor leaders and activists that is developing a plan for the labor movement to respond to the climate crisis.

Kooper Caraway

Kooper Caraway

Kooper Caraway comes from a working class family in Texas. His mother was a retail worker and his father worked in the trucking industry. Many of his cousins and his grandfather were Union Steelworkers in Lonestar, TX.

Kooper began organizing in high school. When immigration agents, under the direction of the Bush Administration, set up camp and began raiding people’s homes in the small town of Mt. Pleasant, TX Kooper Caraway, then a high school junior, organized a series of actions and demonstrations until the federal agents packed up and left town. He then went to work in Dallas for the labor movement. As an organizer with Jobs with Justice he was successful at bridging the Community-Labor Gap. He has since served as a Union Rep for the American Federation of Teachers and an Organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. In 2017, he relocated to South Dakota to serve as Lead Organizer for AFSCME Council 65 and in January 2018, he was elected President of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO. At 27, he became the Youngest CLC President in the Nation.

Frank Lara

Frank Lara

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.

Esmeralda Loreto

Esmeralda Loreto

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).

John Ocampo

John Ocampo

John Ocampo was raised in working class neighborhoods in Miami, FL. His parents, originally from Colombia, were convenience store workers. John is now an organizer with UE and supports Kari on USLAW’s board. He has also previously been an organizer at NNU and SEIU. He led the all-volunteer Restaurant Workers for Justice in Miami while working in the restaurant industry for five years. He has done international accompaniment work with campesino organizations in Guatemala, helped lead international delegations to Cuba and Paraguay, participated in solidarity campaigns with Colombian workers and political prisoners, and served as an electoral observer in El Salvador and Honduras. John has also worked in the telecommunications industry.

Neal Sweeney

Neal Sweeney

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.

Kari Thompson

Kari Thompson

Kari Thompson currently serves as UE’s Director of International Strategies and Co-Director of Education. Prior to being hired onto staff as an organizer, Kari was a member of UE Local 896 in Iowa City, IA. She currently resides in Ashland, Wisconsin. UE is committed to advancing the interests of working people around the world by ending US military intervention abroad. Kari looks forward to working with USLAW to advocate for the redistribution of US Defense spending to working people’s interests instead of lining corporate pockets.

Yasemin Zahra

Yasemin Zahra

Yasemin Zahra has been coaching workers through labor and community organizing for a decade, following a liberation pedagogy and movement based framework. She comes from a poor 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 drives trucking freight from coast-to-coast.

As a longtime restaurant worker, she organized unionization efforts within her shops and later went to work at the Restaurant Opportunities Center-DC, where she tripled the organization’s membership numbers and vastly increased worker engagement. She co-led the 2017 May Day #DConStrike and A Day Without Immigrants marches, which turned out thousands in support of Sanctuary City programs. Most recently, she helped transform the Montgomery County teachers’ union service model to an organizing powerhouse. From the service industry to education sector, Yasemin has organized workers from all different walks of life and has dedicate her own to helping the rank-and-file discover the collective power to tear down the exploitative, institutional structures that shape their lives. She currently serves as the Assistant to the President for Mobilization and Member Engagement at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).