ourStaff

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Sophia Zaman is the Executive Director of Raise the Floor Alliance, where she advocates for policies that improve the lives of low-wage workers, oversees operations, and serves as the main spokesperson for the Alliance. Sophia brings over 5 years of experience in organizing, on issues pertaining to racial justice, student-labor solidarity, gender & sexuality justice, and electoral engagement. Before joining Raise the Floor, she was elected as President of the U.S. Student Association, where she represented over one million college students at the White House, Department of Education, and Congress on policies related to affordable and accessible higher education. She is the proud daughter` of her Bangladeshi immigrant mother, who taught her to always seek justice and live purposefully.

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Lydia Colunga-Merchant is the Legal Director for Raise the Floor Alliance. As Legal Director, she focuses her efforts on increasing access to legal services for low wage Illinois workers in employment matters as well as providing direct representation to low-wage workers in their respective wage and hour cases and employment discrimination claims before state and federal agencies and courts. Additionally, she provides legal analysis and insight to the Alliance’s, and to the eight worker center members’, policy initiatives. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University in 2007 and her Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law in 2010. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to working for the Alliance, Lydia worked as an associate attorney for Robin Potter & Associates, P.C., where she handled employment law, Social Security disability, and Worker’s Compensation cases. A lifelong Chicagoan, Lydia enjoys watching and cheering for her Chicago sports teams, especially the Blackhawks and the White Sox.

Javier Castro is the Staff Attorney for Raise the Floor Alliance, where he represents low-wage workers in wage and hour and employment discrimination cases, in front of federal and state court and administrative agencies. Javier received his BA in Political Science from Marquette University in 2009. He received his Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law in May of 2014, where he was the editor-in- chief of the DePaul Journal for Social Justice.  He’s licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois and in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Prior to working for Raise the Floor, Javier worked as an associate attorney at the Kalita Law Group, where he handled immigration, asylum, and family law cases. In his spare time, Javier loves spending time with his wife and dog, reading, working out, and rooting for the hapless Washington Wizards.

Joanna Arellano is the Communications & Development Director for Raise the Floor Alliance, where she helps create a collaborative communications strategy for workers’ rights and worker centers in Chicago. Additionally, she manages the RTF grant portfolio, engaging donors and interested stakeholders into the work of RTF. Joanna was formerly the Associate Director for the Office for Peace & Justice of the Archdiocese of Chicago where she managed the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) grant portfolio that funds community organizing and economic development work, communicated the importance of social issues to Catholic audiences, and helped engage parishes in social justice issues. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Chicago Fair Trade and is a huge advocate for workers’ rights locally and globally. Joanna also paints and embroiders while listening to the latest on Radio Ambulante.

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