ourStaff

Sophia Zaman - Executive Director. She advocates for policies that advance justice for low-wage workers, oversees operations, & grows strategic resources for the Chicagoland worker center movement. Sophia brings over 5 years of experience organizing on issues pertaining to racial, economic, and gender justice. Before joining RTF, she was the elected 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 for working-class students of color. She is a founding member of Temp Worker Justice, the only national organization dedicated to addressing issues facing temporary workers. In her free time, Sophia is also a collective member with Chicago Desi Youth Rising, where she develops youth ages 14-21 who trace their heritage to South Asia and the diaspora to be social change agents. She is the proud daughter of her Bangladeshi immigrant mama, who taught her to always seek justice and live purposefully.

Ugo Okere – Policy Director. Ugo is a former aldermanic candidate, and the former lead organizer for the Raise Chicago campaign, a coalition of community organizations and labor unions fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 for all workers. In 2019, he ran for alderman of the 40th ward in Chicago's City Council as the second youngest candidate in the city, and the youngest candidate in the race at 21 years old. Over the course of his career, he has worked in several government offices including the Chicago Federal Executive Board, Chicago City Clerk's Office, Congressman Mike Quigley's Office, and the Evanston City Clerk's office. He also served as chairman of youth community organization Fuerza del Sol. A Nigerian immigrant and Chicago native, Ugo graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor's degree in Social Work and Political Science. 

Kevin Herrera - Legal Director. Kevin Herrera is Legal Director at Raise the Floor Alliance, where he works in collaboration with organizers at seven worker centers to defend and advance the rights of communities working in low wage industries through litigation, policy advocacy, and popular education. His work focuses on ending the exploitation of workers and full access to civic life for immigrants while fighting surveillance, the carceral state, and deportation. Herrera previously worked at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, the National Immigration Law Center, and Just Futures Law.

Kara Rodriguez - Communications Director. Kara Rodriguez is a graduate of DePaul University and has spent the past 8 years advocating for the lives and rights of people of color. Before joining RTF, Kara worked at the Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC), supporting food workers through equitable food policies and initiatives. At CFPAC, Kara organized the13th and 14th annual Chicago Food Policy Summits and supported the Illinois Coalition for Cooperative Advancement's effort to pass HB 3663 the Illinois Limited Worker Cooperative Advancement Act.

Sophia Margarita Olazaba - Development Director. Sophia is a graduate from Indiana University Northwest with a bachelor's in political science and minor in Spanish. Her passion for civic engagement and activism came about via her upbringing in Indiana, advocating for workers' rights via United Steelworkers and championing undocufolks rights via local coalitions. Since Sophia has stretched her advocacy wings in Chicago her efforts have focused on philanthropic work that champions workers rights. She has dedicated her life to challenging the status quo in order to bring about systemic change and to support the lives of those most vulnerable that fall victim to structural oppression and inequity. She is the daughter to Mexican parents and a proud sister to a Chicago Teachers Union Brother — in her free time, Sophia enjoys spending time with her friends and two cats.   

Mark Birhanu- Staff Attorney. Mark graduated from Yale Law School where he spent his time in legal clinics that focused on employment litigation for low-wage workers and issues faced by returning citizens. Mark was formerly an intern with the Community Activism Law Alliance and has been assisting low-wage workers throughout his time in law school. Mark is leading the RTF Expungement Clinic to provide legal help and services to Black residents who have records.

Juan Carlos Lares - Healthy Work Legal Organizer. Prior to becoming a staff member, Juan served as a volunteer in RTF’s legal department, providing interpretation to Spanish-speaking workers. Juan has volunteered with Gardeners to establish a community garden at North Lawndale High School. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Juan is a passionate advocate for racial justice through policy change. In his free time, Juan loves to try new recipes and garden.

Ada Sandoval – Staff Attorney. Ada graduated from Lake Forest College with a major in Sociology and Anthropology. After college Ada worked as a paralegal for three years before starting law school. Ada graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law where she earned her Labor and Employment Law Certificate and her Public Interest Law Certificate. During her time at Chicago-Kent Ada focused on getting hands-on experience through various externships. Ada externed for Judge Valderrama at the Chancery Division in the Circuit Court of Cook County, she was a Coles Fellow at the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and she was the Public Interest Law Initiative Spring Legal Intern at Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. Ada is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, she is fluent in Spanish, and she seeks to protect the rights of low-wage workers.

Brenda Salgado - Paralegal. Brenda is a graduate from Dominican University where she double majored in Sociology and Criminology. Before coming to RTF, she interned for SEIU where she learned about the importance of well-paying jobs. During her time at SEIU, she researched issues surrounding the home care industry, and she realized that the shortage of wages is an issue everywhere, even in progressive states like Illinois. She believes everyone should have access to livable wages and appropriate working conditions. As a member of the Hispanic community, she understands that language can be a barrier, therefore she aims to provide and facilitate access to legal resources and combat issues around labor injustices.

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