Board of Directors

President, Rev. Larry Dowling

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, Priests for Justice for Immigrants, Archdiocesan School Board and the Tolton Scholars Advisory Board. Dowling 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, Jonathan Jones

is a Business Representative and trustee for Carpenters Local #10, and a Delegate to the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. Jones is a graduate from Harper High School and was raised in the Englewood Community located on the south part of Chicago. He attended Washburne Trade School and the Carpenter’s Training Center in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. He joined Carpenters Local #10 in 1991, and after completing his four year apprenticeship, obtained his journeymen card. Jonathan was appointed Union Steward by his Business Agent from Local 10, and later worked as an organizer for five years. He now sits on the Construction Committee advisory board for the Cook County Commissioner, is a Delegate to the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Cook County Building Trades. Jones is a member of the Coalition of Black Trades Unionist (CBTU). He is also currently a school board member for a local school in Chicago.

Secretary, Monika Talbi

is an organizer at SEIU Local 1. She 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, Starczuk 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. Starczuk emigrated from Poland in 2002 after receiving a degree in political science from Warsaw University.

Treasurer, Adrienne Alexander

is the Policy and Legislative Specialist for AFSCME Council 31 in Illinois.  In that capacity, she is the lead on budget analysis and political issues for both City of Chicago and Cook County, and she serves as part of AFSCME’s State of Illinois lobbying team.  Alexander was recently named to the 2015 class of the Edgar Fellows, a group of emerging leaders from across Illinois focused on addressing the state’s major policy issues. She is active in the broader labor movement as a founding member of the Chicago Young Workers. Alexander earned her Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. As a graduate student Alexander spent a summer with the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC, working to ensure passage of the Affordable Care Act. She majored in Political Science and minored in Spanish and History as an undergraduate at Agnes Scott College, a small, women’s college in Georgia. She was also a former member of the Pax Christi USA National Council. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.

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 Caravantes 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. Her daughter is also an Arise member, and they attend actions together.

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.

Isabel Escobar

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. Escobar 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. She is currently training with Arise and the National Domestic Workers Alliance as a domestic worker organizer to grow the Arise domestic worker membership.

Br. Michael Gosch

is a member of the Clerics of St. Viator, commonly known as Viatorians.  He has worked as a high school teacher and social worker in Illinois and Nevada.  He currently is the co-director of Viator House of Hospitality, a residence for immigrant males who have aged out of youth detention. The youth came to the U.S. as unaccompanied immigrant children in search of asylum.

Brandon Johnson

is the Political Organizer at Chicago Teachers Union. He hosts the radio show, What’s Left? on WCPT 820 AM Progressive Talk radio and WVON 1690 AM Talk of Chicago.

Rocio Martinez

has been a member of Arise Chicago for several years and has led two campaigns. She participated with Arise in a successful lawsuit against her former employer, Valid USA, after the factory shut down with no warning. Years later, Rocio led a campaign with her co-workers at the Talerico Bakery to improve health and safety conditions and wages on the job.

Fr. Matt O’Donnell

is the pastor at St. Columbanus parish, a parish located in the Park Manor neighborhood of Chicago. He was the youngest-known pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s history when he got the job to lead St. Columbanus Church five years ago. He is a graduate of Mundelein Seminary as well as the Institute for Black Catholics at Xavier University of Louisiana. He is currently studying for Doctor of Ministry at Catholic Theological Union. For his work, Father O’Donnell was recently awarded the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Ronald Olmedo

was born in El Salvador and emigrated to the United States fleeing gang violence when he was 17 years old. He was one of the workers who organized the strike at Michael Food’s in order to improve working conditions at the Egg Processing plant.

Kahphira Palmer

is a dance instructor and teacher. She came to Arise Chicago facing wage theft at two workplaces. With support from Arise, she developed a campaign strategy to recover her stolen wages from both the dance company and the restaurant. As a Worker Center Leader, Palmer represents the organization in public, including talking about wage theft and how Arise responds to the press, including a feature on NBC’s Making a Difference show.

Malgorzata Pinska

migrated from Poland to USA in early 2000. As Domestic Worker specializing in House Cleaning, she came to Arise Chicago in 2013 to be a part of training – Health and Safety for Domestic Workers. Since then she joined the membership of Arise Chicago and actively participated in Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign. In 2015 she become a leader in Domestic Worker group and one of our trainers for OSHA ergonomics training. She organizes meetings and does outreach to Polish community to pass information about Arise Chicago and as well now she trains Domestic Workers in Green Cleaning and Workers Rights.

Rev. Joy Rogers

is a native of Pennsylvania and life-long Episcopalian. She earned a Master of Divinity degree in Parish Ministry and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Homiletics from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a member of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Diocese of Chicago.  She is the former rector of St. Thomas Parish in Battle Creek, MI and most recently served as the chief pastor of St. James Cathedral in Chicago. Under Joy’s leadership, the Fight for Fifteen formally constituted itself in the Cathedral with 200 members present.  Rev. Joy has traveled to Springfield and emceed press conferences in support of the IL Domestic Worker Bill of Rights as well as delegations to return striking workers back to work with the Fight For 15 Campaign.

Manuela Sepulveda

is originally from Mexico.  She came to Arise Chicago because of she was illegally fired. She took action, won a settlement, and inspired co-workers to take action to improve working conditions. As a Worker Center member, Sepulveda supports other members and participates in solidarity actions. She is an OSHA trainer and sits on the Worker Center Member Organizing Committee.

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, Rev. Thomas 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.

Kathy Valdivia

is an immigrant from Peru who works as a nanny. She first encountered Arise while attending an immigration workshop at Dominican University, where her son attended. She then became very involved with the organization, attending many trainings that Arise offered. She participated in the Arise Nanny training at UIC, and is now trained as our Spanish language Nanny trainer. She performs ongoing outreach to other domestic workers, including at the Oak Park library where many nannies bring the children they care for. Kathy supported the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign, was also a spokesperson for Arise in summer 2017 when the Chicago and Cook County minimum wage increased and paid sick days legislation went into effect. Kathy is a dancer and instructor of traditional Peruvian dance, who taught dancing at our 2017 annual Member Victory Party.

Don Villar

was born into the labor movement and spirit of social justice after his parents and three siblings immigrated to the U.S.  In 1991, Don became a member of NABET-CWA Local 41 – a union representing broadcast news and TV production workers in Chicago. During his nearly 25-year broadcast journalism career at WLS-TV (ABC) Chicago, Don won an Emmy Award for breaking news coverage. He later earned his Juris Doctorate at Loyola Law School. In 2010, Don was elected Vice President of NABET-CWA Local 41 and then President in 2015. In this role, he focused on organizing, movement building and collective bargaining. Don is now the Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor and is also on the Campaign Cabinet of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. 

Rabbi Michael Zedek

is currently Rabbi Emeritus at Emanuel Congregation, where he has served since 2004. Previously he was the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati (JFC). Prior to his service at Emanuel Congregation, Rabbi Zedek was the senior rabbi of Temple B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City, Missouri where he served for many years. A dedicated community activist, scholar, and teacher Rabbi Zedek has received numerous awards including a Fulbright-Hays Grant. He was also honored by the National Conference of Christian and Jews. Rabbi Zedek has participated in Aldermanic meetings with Arise for the Office of Labor Standards and was a frequent participant in our annual Labor in the Pulpit program.

Magdalena Zylinska

is a domestic worker from Poland. She first came to Arise for a green cleaning training held in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. After learning that domestic workers like herself were excluded from basic labor protections, she became a leader in the campaign for an Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. She has traveled to Springfield numerous times, and to Washington D.C. advocating for rights for domestic workers. She is currently training with Arise and the National Domestic Workers Alliance as a domestic worker organizer to grow the Arise domestic worker membership.

Get Updates