Harriet Applegate, 2019

Board Member, Cleveland, OH

Executive Secretary, North Shore AFL-CIO

Maria Castaneda, 2019

Board Member, Secretary-Treasurer, 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East

Edgar Franks“We see the effects that climate change and injustice can have on the health of our communities. From elevated asthma rates to storms that can leave safety net healthcare institutions without the resources needed to care for some of our most vulnerable patients, this injustice poses real danger to working families. The Labor Network for Sustainability is an important vehicle for workers and unions to advocate for the kind of changes to our economy that will address the immediate and long term crisis of climate change in a way that leaves no worker behind. — Maria Castaneda

Maria Castaneda was first elected Secretary-Treasurer of 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East in 2007, and has twice been re-elected. She holds the second highest position in her union, representing over 450,000 healthcare workers in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Maria is the highest ranking Asian American woman labor leader in the United States.

Born in the Philippines, Maria migrated to the US in 1984. She worked as a volunteer community organizer in New York, assisting Filipino nurses with their immigration issues and helping promote Philippine cultural heritage. She lobbied for the Nursing Relief Act that granted thousands of Filipino nurses permanent resident status and family unification.

She began working for 1199SEIU in 1985 as an organizer in the Registered Nurses Division. In 1998, Maria was a Vice President of 1199, representing the 5,300 members at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Seven years later, she was elected Executive Vice President, representing 1199 members at Montefiore Health System, Continuum Health Partners (now part of the Mt. Sinai Health System), Maimonides Medical Center and Lutheran Health System.

Maria has also helped to forge a different model of labor management relationship – the strategic partnership. This partnership focuses on quality patient care and worker engagement. Under her leadership, hospitals reduced acquired infections by engaging frontline workers as quality coaches; increased patient satisfaction through care teamwork; reduced wait time in clinics; improved prep time in operating rooms; and carried out other successful initiatives. These joint labor-management initiatives give frontline healthcare workers a voice and input in promoting quality and safe patient care and services, and promote employee job satisfaction.

Maria also led the labor-management Training and Upgrading program for union members. This program provides career ladders for healthcare workers through skills enhancement and continuing education. For example, a Certified Nurse Aide can train to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and eventually, a Registered Nurse. Service workers are trained to become Surgical Techs, clerical workers become certified billers and coders and so on.

Within 1199SEIU, Maria leads in promoting a culture of health and wellness among members through workplace wellness programs. Members and the employers are engaged as wellness champions and help foster healthy eating choices, exercise and smoking cessation to combat chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Maria is a Vice President of the 2.1 million-member Service International Union. Last year, she formed the Haiyan/Yolanda relief work group, together with other SEIU leaders. The work group raised almost $600,000, and another $1.3 million worth of food, medicines, infant formula, water, and wipes. The work group partnered with NGOs in the Philippines and funded agricultural, livestock and fishing projects – including the rebuilding of a fishing landing and trading center – and rebuilding health centers, day care centers and a sewing cooperative. They also donated hospital emergency-room beds, nurses’ scrubs, and mattresses, bed sheets, and pillow cases for nurses who had to sleep on hospital floors.

Previously, after the earthquake in Haiti, Maria helped form the 1199SEIU We Care for Haiti committee, through which the union donated over a million dollars for UNICEF to support Haiti’s children.

Edgar Franks, 2019

Board Member, Mount Vernon, WA

Washington State Campaign and Political Director, Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Edgar Franks is the Washington State Campaign and Political Director for Familias Unidas por la Edgar FranksJusticia where he works with union leadership and allies in the development and implementation of the Just Transition framework that centers food sovereignty and worker organizing in innovative models of participatory democracy, such as People’s Movement Assemblies and Tribunals. Edgar has strong farmworker roots in Skagit County, WA where he grew up. Edgar honed his organizing skills supporting the formation of the first independent farmworker union in WA State since 1986. As an organizer he works in Whatcom and Skagit Counties and sometimes travels to Eastern WA to meet with farm workers as needed and supports their organizing efforts working with union organizers of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. Before joining Familias Unidas, Edgar served as the Civic Engagement Program Coordinator at Community to Community Development, working to engage allies to develop strategies that ensure the voices of farmworkers are represented at all levels of the political process.

John Harrity, 2018

Board Member, East Hartland, CT

Former President, CT State Council of Machinists (retired 2018)

John serves as Chair and is a founding member of the Board of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate & Jobs, a statewide coalition with a major impact on Connecticut’s response to climate change. John also serves on the Board of the Connecticut Green Bank, a quasi-public agency that in 5 years has leveraged $1 billion in private/public investments in CT renewables, creating 13,000+ jobs. John was also a founding member and vice chair of the CT Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Coalition, a fuel cell industry group. John recently retired from 38 years of active involvement in the International Association of Machinists Union (IAM), including 32 years on staff as an organizer, communications director, legislative coordinator and business rep. John is a recipient of the IAM’s Bob Kalasky Outstanding Achievements Award for communications. John served as President of the CT State Council of Machinists from 2012 to 2018. He also represented CT labor on the CT Employment and Training Commission and the Manufacturing Innovation Fund Advisory Board. John has a BA from the University of Connecticut and an MA from the University of Massachusetts in Labor Studies. He started as a Vertical Turret Lathe operator at Pratt & Whitney in 1979.

Lisa Hoyos, 2009

Board Secretary and Secretary of Compensation Committee, San Francisco, CA

Director and Co-Founder, Climate Parents

Lisa is the Director and the Co-Founder of Climate Parents; now a project of the Sierra Club. Lisa She has been a campaigner in the labor and environmental movements for over twenty years, most recently serving as the CA Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. She has worked for the national AFL-CIO as a California Senior Field Representative, as the Political Director of the South Bay Labor Council, and as an organizer of Latino immigrant workers with SEIU’s Justice for Janitors. She served, under state Senator Tom Hayden, as an analyst to the CA Senate Natural Resources Committee and has worked with environmental organizations including Greenpeace and the Environmental Project on Central America. In addition to her many years of US-based work, Lisa worked for two years leading a globalization project with the Congress of South African Trade Unions in Johannesburg and has coordinated the prominent global fair trade network “Our World Is Not For Sale.” Lisa serves or has served on boards of organizations including the California Fair Trade Coalition, Working Partnerships USA, United for a Fair Economy and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Lisa is fluent in Spanish. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and their two joy inducing young boys.

Jeff Johnson, 2018

Board Member, Seattle WA

Former President, Washington State Labor Council (Retired January 2019)

Jeffrey G. JohnsonJeff recently retired as President of the Washington State Labor Council. He joined the labor movement in 1979 as a member of Local 2190, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, New York City. He taught Labor Economics and Labor Studies at Empire State College, the Center for Labor Studies and in many union and community sponsored education programs in the New York area before moving to the West Coast. His work has gained respect not only across the labor movement but also with a diverse group of organizations in Washington State. He is a well known and deeply respected elected labor leader who is playing an important role in the Pacific Northwest, on climate as well as on a range of other labor issues. He joined us for the first Labor Convergence on Climate, and we have continued to work more and more closely with him since. Recently he has been able to move resolutions on both climate and Just Transition through the WA state AFL-CIO convention.

Jennifer Krill, 2009

Board member, Washington DC

Executive Director, Earthworks Washington, DC

Jennifer KrillJennifer Krill serves as the Executive Director of EARTHWORKS based in Washington, DC. Extracting social and environmental justice from corporate boardrooms since 1995, Jennifer Krill joined EARTHWORKS in January 2010, where she supports the organization’s national and international programs on mining and fossil fuel extraction. Prior to EARTHWORKS, Jennifer directed campaigns at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), where she helped negotiate a landmark policy from Boise Cascade to protect old growth forests, managed RAN’s program to convince Japanese paper companies to stop buying old growth pulp from Tasmania, led the grassroots organizing campaign resulting in Home Depot ending its purchases of endangered wood products, directed the successful campaign to jump-start Ford Motor Company, co-designed RAN’s innovative effort to spur the nation’s largest banks to stop financing climate change-causing industries, and helped found RAN’s ambitious Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign working to get big agribusiness out of rainforest regions. Jennifer currently serves on the board of Plug-in America, the Advisory Council of the Business Ethics Network and is a former board member of Dogwood Alliance. She holds a B.A. and a B.L.A. from Ball State University.

Bob Massie, 2013

Board Member, Boston, MA

Former Executive Director, Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of MA

Bob Massie joined our board in 2013. Bob has been a social, economic, and environmental activist fighting corporate power for more than 40 years. An ordained Episcopal minister, he received his B.A. from Princeton University, M.A. from Yale Divinity School, and doctorate from Harvard Business School where he focused on the role of institutional investors in advancing or resisting progressive change. From 1989 to 1996 he taught at Harvard Divinity School, where he served as the director of the Project on Business, Values, and the Economy. His 1998 book, Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years, won the Lionel Gelber prize for the best book on international relations in the world. He was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1994. During his visionary career he has created or led three ground-breaking sustainability organizations, serving as the president of Ceres, the co-founder and first chair of the Global Reporting Initiative, and the initiator of the Investor Network on Climate Risk. His autobiography, A Song in the Night: A Memoir of Resilience, was published in 2012 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. Bob is also a member of the National Writers Union, which is Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers. In 2018 Bob was the fiery progressive in the Democratic primary race for Governor of Massachusetts. Though he lost, he garnered nearly 200,000 votes advocating for urgent action on income inequality, climate change, housing reform, and many other core progressive goals.

Melvin Montford, 2019

Board Member, Raleigh, NC

Executive Director, NC A. Philip Randolph Institute

Melvin is a long time civil rights, environmental justice, voting rights, and labor leader and organizer in North Carolina. He has for many hears been a leader on climate as well. In his capacity as the Executive Director of North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute (NC APRI), he is responsible for leading, organizing, planning and controlling all Institute operations in North Carolina on behalf of the state APRI board of directors. In addition to his extensive voting rights and election work through APRI, he has been an organizer and elected leader in the NC labor movement. For his union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, his responsibilities have included leadership development and training, negotiation of collective bargaining, arbitration of disputes, and membership building and development.

He serves as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Triangle Labor Council in Raleigh, and has served on the executive board of the NC AFL-CIO. Other NC boards he has served on include NC community Shares and Blueprint NC.

He began working with the LNS network in 2015, when he and a number of others who were in the process of organizing what has become the NC Climate and Jobs Roundtable reached out to LNS. Late in 2015 he joined the first LNS Convergence Steering Committee to help LNS organize the first-ever national Labor Convergence on Climate gathering, held in January 2016 at the Tommy Douglas Center in Silver Spring, MD.  Melvin has been an active LNS leader ever since that time, and this past fall of 2019, he joined the LNS Board of Directors.

Cynthia Phinney, 2019

Board Member, Livermore Falls, ME

President, Maine AFL-CIO

Cynthia Phinney, a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1837, is the President of the Maine AFL-CIO, a federation of approximately 160 labor unions representing approximately 40,000 workers across the state. She is also currently the President of the Maine Fair Trade Campaign, a coalition of labor, environmental, social justice and faith organizations working together for the creation of socially, economically and environmentally just and sustainable trade policies and a fair global economy. Formerly a handsewer at a couple different factories when Maine’s shoe industry was still in existence, in 1991 she secured a job at an electrical utility when the Maine shoe industry collapsed as jobs moved overseas for cheaper labor. Over her years with IBEW she also served on staff as a full time organizer and for two terms as business manager of her local.

Colette Pichon Battle, 2023

Board Member, Slidell, LA

Co-Founder, Taproot Earth

Colette Pichon Battle

Colette Pichon Battle is an award-winning lawyer and climate justice organizer. She is a trusted voice in the climate justice and Black liberation movements, and her work focuses on creating spaces for frontline communities to gather and advance climate strategies that help us steward the water, energy, and land. A generational native of Bayou Liberty, Louisiana, she is a 2019 Obama Fellow and is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the 2023 Heinz Award for the Environment, the 2022 Catalyst Award from Rachel’s Network, and the 2022 William O. Douglas Award.

Colette is the co-founder and Vision & Initiatives Partner for Taproot Earth and is a former corporate lawyer. Internationally, Colette has gained recognition for her outstanding use of the legal and judicial process to achieve environmental goals. After 17 years of work leading the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy development of programming focused on equitable climate resilience in the Gulf South, in 2022, she expanded her vision into Taproot Earth, inspired by her learnings with GCCLP and movement partners across the South.

Nayyirah Shariff, 2023

Board Member, Flint, MI

Co-Founder, Flint Democracy Defense League
Director of Flint Rising

Nayyirah Shariff

Nayyirah Shariff is a grassroots organizer based in Flint, Michigan. Nayyirah was one of the co-founders of the Flint Democracy Defense League, a grassroots group formed to confront Flint’s emergency manager in 2011. They have more than ten years of experience organizing around local, state, and national electoral and issue campaigns. They have been featured on Democracy Now!, Move to Amend podcast, Al-Jazeera, and Netroots National speaking out about the problems with Flint’s water and with Michigan’s emergency management of local governments. They are the founding Director of Flint Rising, a coalition of Flint residents and community groups, labor, and progressive allies that formed in the aftermath of Flint’s emergency declaration to the water disaster.

April Sims, 2023

Board Member, Tacoma, WA

President, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

April Sims

April Sims (she/her) was elected President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO in October 2022 and was sworn in to begin her four-year term in January 2023. She is the first woman to be elected WSLC president and the first Black woman elected to the presidency of an AFL-CIO state federation. As President, Sims is the chief executive officer of the council, supervises all of its activities and staff, and leads Washington’s largest union organization representing more than half a million union members.

Sims’ lived experience is evidence of the power and potential of organized labor. The granddaughter of Louisiana sharecroppers and the daughter of a single mother, Sims has seen the power of unions to change lives. The Great Migration brought Sims’ grandfather to Washington, where his union job provided economic dignity for his family. Her mom’s union job pulled their family out of the cycle of poverty. As a young mother, it was Sims’ union job that allowed her to build economic security – and activated her as a leader in Washington’s labor movement.

In 2002, Sims joined the staff of her union, Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE), eventually serving as Legislative and Political Action Field Coordinator. April joined the WSLC staff in 2015 as Field Mobilization Director, before becoming the WSLC’s Political and Strategic Campaign Director in 2017.

In 2018, the unions that comprise the WSLC elected Sims as Secretary Treasurer of the council, the first person of color elected as a WSLC executive officer. She served in that office, as the chief financial officer of the council, from 2019 to 2022.

Ananda Lee Tan, 2013

Board Member, Berkeley, CA and Vancouver, BC

Campaigns Director, Climate Justice Alliance. Strategy Advisor, Building Equity and Alignment for Impact (BEA4Impact) Initiative

Ananda Lee TanAnanda most recently was the Campaigns Director for the Climate Justice Alliance. Prior to that he was one of the founders of the BEA4Impact Initiative. A longtime active participant in the Climate Justice Alliance, Ananda was previously the U.S. and Canada Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives – an international network of community-based groups organizing against polluting industries such as incinerators and landfills, in favor of zero waste and clean energy jobs for communities. Over the last twenty-five years, Ananda has worked on labor justice, environmental justice, anti-war, trade justice, climate change, sustainable forestry and agriculture campaigns around the world. Ananda has served on Boards of the Canadian Labor Environmental Alliance Society, Energy Action Coalition and the Forest Stewardship Council. He is currently active in the Rising Tide North America Network, the Ruckus Society and the Movement Generation Trainers Network. In recent years, Ananda has helped convene a national Climate Justice Alliance for social, economic and environmental justice groups with the aim of building a grassroots movement for climate resilience and just economic transition in the U.S. Ananda lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife and son.

Joseph B. Uehlein, 2009

President, Takoma Park, MD

Joseph B. UehleinFounding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Voices for a Sustainable Future. Joe is the former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department and former director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns. Joe spent over 35 years doing worker representation, organizing, bargaining, and strategic campaign work in the labor movement. Joe also served as the Secretary to the North American Coordinating Committee of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, and Mine Workers unions (ICEM). Joe also served on the United Nations commission on global warming from its inception in 1988 through the Kyoto Accords in 1997 until 2003. Joe is a founding board member of Ceres (Coalition for Environmentally responsible Economies), and served on the Ceres board for 23 years. Joe is a founding member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and served as a senior strategic advisor to the Blue Green Alliance for four years.  Joe is a current board member of USCAN, the US Climate Action Network, and serves on the board of the Solidarity Research Center. In the early 1970’s he worked in an aluminum mill in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of the United Steelworkers of America, and then on heavy and highway construction projects in Central Pennsylvania as a member of the Laborer’s International Union of North America. Joe is a musician, and a 58 year member of the American Federation of Musicians.