Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director
Shawna Bader-Blau leads the Solidarity Center—the largest global worker rights organization based in the United States—and its 400-plus staff in headquarters and 35 field offices, and programs in more than 60 countries. Shawna also hosts The Solidarity Center Podcast, launched in 2021. She has served as executive director since October 2011.
During her tenure, Shawna has shepherded the organization’s collective transformation, honing the mission, increasing funding and aligning work to more strongly reflect the values of social justice unionism, equality and inclusion, and grassroots democracy. She has been with the organization for 20 years.
Shawna is an advocate and activist for safe, dignified and family-supporting livelihoods—where workers can exercise their fundamental labor rights and have a voice in shaping work conditions and public policies that impact their lives. She is a leader in helping link the human rights community with the labor movement’s struggle to protect worker rights. She works to ensure that labor rights are part of policy discussions on international development and within the women’s movement and broader civil society.
Shawna is regularly invited to speak at conferences and policy convenings around the world, discussing social justice, equality and inclusion, decent work, more inclusive economic development and democracy, and she testifies as an expert on worker and human rights at U.S. congressional briefings and hearings. She organizes and co-convenes discussions on the protection of worker rights in times of closing space and increased impunity, bringing together rights defenders, workers, UN agencies, governments and labor unions to find common solutions. Shawna also was the 2019 Alice B. Grant Labor Leader in Residence at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR)—a program that recognizes U.S. and global labor leaders and brings them into Cornell classrooms and the public stage to share their knowledge and expertise.
Shawna has worked in the field of international development and human rights for 25 years and has lived or worked in more than 25 countries. Prior to her appointment as executive director, Shawna served as the Solidarity Center’s regional program director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). She studied Arabic and is a recognized expert on authoritarian regimes and civil society. She holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Shawna serves on the board of the Business and Human Rights Resource Center and on the advisory board of Foreign Policy for America, and is former vice chair of the Board of Directors of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In 2022, Shawna was co-recipient of the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award from InterAction, for promoting democracy, rights and governance (DRG) and championing the overlap between organizations focused on DRG and InterAction’s humanitarian members.
See testimony, speeches and publications by Shawna Bader-Blau.
Interviews with Shawna Bader-Blau. [LinkedIn]
Al Davidoff, Organizational and Leadership Development Director
Al came to the Solidarity Center in 2017 from the AFL-CIO, where he served as director of governance, organizational and leadership development. In this position he co-created the National Labor Leadership Initiative with the Cornell Worker Institute, a program that has since expanded into regional and international branches. During more than 30 years in the U.S. labor movement, Al served as American Federation of Teachers (AFT) chief of staff, AFT director of strategy and leadership development and SEIU 1199 vice president. As New York State AFL-CIO director, Al helped develop Cornell’s Union Leadership Institute and restructured 36 labor councils representing 2 million members. At Cornell, where he began as a custodian and organized an 1,100-person service and maintenance bargaining unit (UAW Local 2300), he was elected UAW Local 2300 president and president of the UAW’s National Academic Council, leading five successful strikes and community living wage campaigns in New York. [LinkedIn]
Sarah McKenzie, Program Coordination Director
Sarah coordinates programs at the Solidarity Center. With more than 20 years of experience in the labor movement, she joined the Solidarity Center in 2012 as director of Trade Union Strengthening. Before joining the Solidarity Center, she successfully organized more than 100,000 working people into local labor unions from public- and private-sector industries throughout the country. Prior to her Solidarity Center tenure, Sarah served as director of the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, where she developed organizer training and recruitment programs and led a staff who trained thousands of organizers and affiliate members to build strong unions across the United States and around the world. Earlier in her career, Sarah led successful organizing drives for the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County Municipal Employees. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. [LinkedIn]
Quoc Nguyen, Finance Director
Quoc has more than 23 years of experience in global nonprofit organizations with a focus on promoting democracy, women’s rights, human rights and access to health care. His extensive financial management experience in international nongovernmental organizations includes 15 years as director of finance at Freedom House, Women for Women International and Results for Development, Inc., organizations funded by various U.S. government agencies and international donors. At the International Republican Institute, Quoc managed U.S. and international financial operations, monitored grants to international NGOs and ensured compliance donor regulations for the U.S. government and others. [LinkedIn]
Fred Azcarate, Asia Regional Program Director
Fred joins the Solidarity Center with a 30-year track record of success in building power for workers, unions, and communities, through his leadership at the AFL-CIO and across the U.S. labor and social justice movements. Most recently, Fred supported the national work of the Poor People’s Campaign under the leadership of Reverend William Barber, working to organize in communities and online to address systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation and the war economy and militarism. At the AFL-CIO, Fred served as director of America Wants to Work, deputy director of the Strategic Campaign Center, and director of [email protected]/assistant director of organizing. He also served as founding executive director at Jobs with Justice and at USAction and USAction Education Fund. He is the chairman of the board of the New World Foundation and the founder of Grassroots Global Justice. He is a graduate of the State University of New York. [LinkedIn]
Hind Cherrouk, Middle East and North Africa Regional Program Director
From 2015 to 2018, Hind served as Solidarity Center country program director for the Maghreb region, covering Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Based in Morocco, Hind was responsible for implementing programs focused on trade union capacity building and advocacy, fostering gender equity, ending gender-based violence and advancing the rights of unprotected and marginalized workers, among them youth, women, migrants and workers with disabilities. She has extensive experience managing and implementing Solidarity Center capacity-building programs with trade union partners and the broader labor movement. She is a regular speaker at international forums on organizing women workers and moving toward gender equality, and speaks Arabic and French. Hind joined the Solidarity Center in 2005. [LinkedIn]
Kate Conradt, Communications Director
Kate has served as the Solidarity Center’s director of communications since 2010. She brings to the position more than two decades of international experience in journalism, analysis, advocacy and communications, for organizations that include Save the Children, the Basic Education Coalition and the Economist Intelligence Unit. As lead manager for communications regarding rapid-onset and ongoing-crisis countries and first responder to global emergencies and disasters with Save the Children, she was regularly quoted in or appeared on national and international news outlets including CNN, Associated Press, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. Kate holds a master’s degree in Hispanic studies and a dual bachelor’s degree in Spanish and journalism. She has lived and/or worked in more than 35 countries. [LinkedIn]
Alexis De Simone, Domestic Work Global Lead
Alexis De Simone leads the Solidarity Center’s global coordination for domestic worker organizing, a role she accepted in October 2022. In her prior position as Solidarity Center senior program officer for the Americas, she developed and implemented leadership development, rights education and advocacy programs to advance the economic and social inclusion of marginalized workers in Central America and Brazil, and in South-South projects. Alexis has helped the Solidarity Center articulate and innovate programing around labor violence, the targeting of unionists as human rights defenders and gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work. Previous to her work at the Solidarity Center, she was an organizer for CASA de Maryland, where she conducted labor and civil rights issue-based campaigns with low-wage, immigrant women workers and helped co-found the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She gained extensive experience on identifying, extracting and seeking justice for survivors of labor trafficking, and created organizing models for incorporating survivors as activists. She is from the Bronx, New York, is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, and holds a bachelor’s degree in government and theology from Georgetown University.[LinkedIn]
Alberto Fernández, Mexico Senior Adviser
As a senior adviser for Mexico, Alberto is the main liaison between the country office and headquarters, and provides direct support to and oversight of the implementation of Solidarity Center programs there. Alberto has been an activist for more than two decades, beginning in Mexico’s pro-democracy and student movements. He has also researched and written extensively about freedom of association and immigrant workers’ rights in both academic and non-academic settings. He has worked for the labor movement in Mexico, where he joined the Authentic Labor Front in 2000, and for the U.S. labor movement, starting at Working America, where he led outreach programs with immigrant workers and Latino communities. He has been with the Solidarity Center since 2018, starting as a program officer for Mexico and the Andean Region.
Christopher Johnson, Africa Regional Program Director
Prior to his 2020 appointment to Africa regional program director, Christopher led a staff of 37 in Bangladesh implementing Solidarity Center programs, including garment worker fire and building safety. As director of West and Southern Africa programs before that, Christopher led trade union capacity-building programs on anti-trafficking, gender equality, organizing, collective bargaining, leadership development, strategic research and conflict resolution. Before employment with the Solidarity Center, Christopher worked for the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Christopher holds a doctorate in African-American studies from Temple University in Philadelphia, and master’s degrees in international development, from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and in African and African-American studies, from the University at Albany, the State University of New York. [LinkedIn]
Arina C. Lester, Development Global Lead
Arina joined the Solidarity Center in 2019, bringing to the position more than a decade of professional experience in international development and social justice tied to external stakeholder relationship building, strategic organizational planning and fundraising. Previously she served as development director at Community Preservation and Development Corporation, on urban poverty and affordable housing, and Legacies of War, on the removal of leftover unexploded ordnance in post-war Southeast Asia. Before her focus on philanthropy, Arina worked on global supply chain management and social compliance at the Fair Labor Association and the International Labor Organization (ILO), and provided capacity-building training to indigenous people in the Lao and Thai highlands for German development agency GIZ. Arina holds a master’s degree in sustainable international development from Brandeis University and a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology from the University of Heidelberg. [LinkedIn]
Monika Mehta, Rule of Law Deputy Director
Monika is currently the deputy director of the Rule of Law Department at the Solidarity Center, where she focuses on labor and workers’ rights issues. She also helps maintain and grow the ILAW Network, a global network of labor lawyers. Prior to joining the Solidarity Center, she focused on holding global apparel brands accountable for labor, human and environmental rights violations occurring in their global supply chains. She also spent four years working to provide human rights defenders with a legal defense against frivolous and trumped-up charges brought against them in retaliation for their work. She focused on cases in South and Southeast Asia, where she helped defend labor leaders, lawyers, community activists and NGOs so that they could continue to exercise their fundamental human rights. She also defended the environmental, cultural and “free, prior and informed consent” rights of communities affected by large-scale development projects in Asia, Africa and the Andean region. She holds a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in international studies: political science and economics from the University of California, San Diego. [LinkedIn]
Neha Misra, Migration and Human Trafficking Global Lead
Neha joined the Solidarity Center in 1998 as the deputy country program director in Indonesia, where she managed the Solidarity Center’s counter-trafficking in persons, labor migration and democracy programs. Before joining the Solidarity Center, she worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina on postwar elections and democracy, and in the United States as a senior attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. While at the Justice Department, she also served as the president of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3525. Neha serves on the executive board of the Migration that Works and represents the Solidarity Center in the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST). [LinkedIn]
Sonia Mistry, Climate Change and Labor Justice Global Lead
Sonia Mistry is global lead for climate change and just transition, a position to which she was appointed in February 2021. She most recently served as a senior program officer (2007–2021) in the Solidarity Center Asia department, supporting worker rights and union building programs throughout South Asia, including Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Prior to working in the Asia department, she supported Solidarity Center programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Sonia also served as co-chair of the organization’s Climate and Labor Justice Working Group. Before joining the Solidarity Center, Sonia was an organizer with the Service Employees International Union. Sonia holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College with a major in anthropology. [LinkedIn]
Hanad Mohamud, Program Coordination and Leadership Associate Director
Hanad is most recently the regional program director for Africa. From 2012–2018, he served as Nairobi-based Solidarity Center director for East and Horn of Africa programs, where he managed work in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Hanad previously served as the Solidarity Center director of trade union strengthening, from 2005 to 2012, and as acting Africa regional director before that. Prior to joining the Solidarity Center in 2002, Hanad worked for the AFL-CIO’s Food and Allied Services Trades department, where he implemented strategic union campaign programs for unions affiliated to the AFL-CIO, and with the Calvert Group, which focused on socially responsible investing. He has extensive experience in conducting trainings and campaigns in many African countries in union organizing and bargaining as well as in strategic trade union research in support of trade union campaigns. Hanad is a fluent French speaker.
Joell Molina, Americas Regional Program Director
Joell, who has more than 15 years of experience fighting for worker rights in the United States and around the world, joined the Program Coordination department in 2021. Prior to that, he served as director of the Trade Union Strengthening (TUS) department, regional program director for the Solidarity Center’s Americas programs and senior TUS specialist for organizing. Joell has worked with unions in a variety of sectors in Africa, the Americas and other regions to develop organizing, strategic research and campaigning capacity through workshops and on-the-ground training. Joell, who holds a master’s degree in international affairs and economic development, began working in the labor movement in 2001 at the Service Employees International Union and has worked with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. [LinkedIn]
Catherine Pajic, Organizational Development for Recruitment and Hiring Systems Deputy Director
Catherine came on board in 2020 to develop the Solidarity Center’s recruitment and hiring systems, drawing on 25 years of experience in nonprofit programming and management. Most recently, she was the sole international recruiter for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. This followed her six-year tenure as the first full-time global recruiter for the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Prior to that, she served for nearly a decade as NDI’s Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe. She has also worked as a professional fundraiser and technical writer, and designed exchange programs for Freedom House that are still being implemented. Catherine has a master’s degree in Russian area studies from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Boston University. [LinkedIn]
Robert Pajkovski, Asia Regional Program Deputy Director
Robert is a lifelong trade unionist who has worked at the Solidarity Center since 2001. Robert was appointed deputy regional program director for Asia in 2020 following 18 years of field experience as a country program director in Europe and Asia. He has extensive experience and expertise in developing and implementing organizing and collective bargaining, strategic planning, trade union leadership and safe migration programs, as well as promoting international labor standards and enforcement mechanisms. Robert also served as the unit chair of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild representing Solidarity Center field staff members. Prior to joining the Solidarity Center, he held senior positions at the UAW International Union and the UFCW International Union, including assistant to the international vice president for collective bargaining. Robert has a master’s degree in business administration, a master of arts in labor relations and bachelor of arts in journalism.
Sanjiv Pandita, Asia Senior Adviser
Sanjiv joined the Solidarity Center in 2021, bringing decades of grassroots experience fighting for worker rights across Asia. Previously, he served for nearly five years as Asia regional representative in Hong Kong for Solidar Suisse, a Swiss-based labor rights and social justice organization. He also spent eight years leading the Asia Monitoring Resource Center (AMRC), a Hong Kong-based labor rights organization. Sanjiv was instrumental to building ANROEV, a grassroots and survivor-led network that campaigns to improve health and safety practices in Asia, and for that work, he was recognized with the American Public Health Association’s international health and safety award in 2020. His work has taken him across India, working with coal miners in the East, garment workers in the South, and textile workers in Mumbai. He has conducted trainings for local organizations in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. He holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a master’s degree in environmental sciences, and has written or edited multiple books and articles on worker health and safety, worker compensation, global supply chains, miners in India and electronics workers in China. He serves on the Board of Electronics Watch and is fluent in English, Hindi, Kashmiri, and Urdu, with varying levels of proficiency in Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi. [LinkedIn]
Marggie Peters Muhika, Africa Regional Program Deputy Director
During her tenure at the Solidarity Center, starting in 2018, Marggie served as East and Horn of Africa program manager, Ethiopia field program specialist and, most recently, East and Horn of Africa country program director. In Ethiopia she led a team who organized more than 25,000 workers amid conflict, political instability and anti-union attacks—helping them win better wages and protections. Before joining the Solidarity Center, Marggie worked for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in Kenya and South Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and community development from Kenyatta University in Nairobi and a master’s degree in management of development from the International Training Center of the ILO in Turin, Italy. She is fluent in Kiswahili.
Rudy Porter, Europe and Central Asia Regional Program Director
Rudy joined the Solidarity Center in 1995. He leads all Solidarity Center programs in Europe and Central Asia, including offices in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia and Ukraine. Rudy was previously the Solidarity Center country program director in Thailand, Burma and Malaysia (2007–2011), Indonesia and Philippines (2001–2007), Serbia and Montenegro (2000–2001) and Croatia (1995–2000). He serves on the steering committee of the Cotton Campaign. Prior to the Solidarity Center, Rudy was a field representative for the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, a state representative for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and a national organizer and local union representative for SEIU. Rudy holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in labor economics and human resource management from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. [LinkedIn]
Melysa Sperber, Policy Director
Melysa is an attorney and advocate with expertise in domestic and foreign policy on migration, human rights and gender-based violence, with experience in policy advocacy, philanthropy and strategic partnerships. She previously served as director of human rights at Vital Voices Global Partnership; director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST); and director of policy and government relations at Humanity United. Melysa has served as an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School and the Georgetown University Law Center. Melysa holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown Public Policy Institute and a bachelor’s degree from the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. [Linked In]
Andrew Tillett-Saks, Trade Union Strengthening Director
Andrew was appointed director of the Trade Union Strengthening department in 2021. Prior to that, he served as the Solidarity Center’s senior organizing specialist for Asia. Before joining the Solidarity Center, he spent over a decade as an organizer in the United States with UNITE HERE, leading organizing campaigns in hotels, food-service, airports and casinos nationwide, including successful NLRB-elections and first collective bargaining agreements negotiated in the New England region, Los Angeles and Miami. Most recently, he served as organizing director and vice president of UNITE HERE’s statewide Connecticut local. In addition to union organizing, he has directed electoral campaigns and legislative living wage campaigns for the labor movement, including the election of the first hotel housekeeper to win political office in the United States and a union-led hunger strike to raise the Rhode Island state minimum wage. Andrew has published articles on organizing strategy, focusing on building democratic, member-led unionism as well as anti-racism within the labor movement. [LinkedIn]
Jeff Vogt, Rule of Law Director
Jeff is the Rule of Law director of the Solidarity Center and co-founder of the International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, which brings together over 700 worker rights lawyers from around the globe. In 2022, Jeff also was appointed to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Governing Body and serves on the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association. From 2011 through 2016, he was the legal director of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), where he coordinated the organization’s legal advocacy before the International Labor Organization and other international institutions, advised trade unions on labor law and policy, and supported claims before national and international tribunals. Before joining the ITUC in 2011, Jeff served as the AFL-CIO deputy director of the International Department and as its global economic policy specialist. He has published extensively on international labor law and has testified before executive, legislative and judicial bodies around the world. He is a graduate of Cornell Law School, where he earned his J.D. and L.L.M. in international and comparative law, and studied international law at the University of Paris I–Sorbonne. Jeff is co-author of the book, The Right to Strike in International Law (Hart Publishing 2020). [LinkedIn]
ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE
Allison Aguilar, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives Head
Allison joined the Solidarity Center in 2022. Her work addresses internal needs surrounding the organization’s equity and inclusion initiative for racial justice, gender equality and global solidarity. Her 14 years of labor experience include work with public-sector, federal-employee and private-sector unions. Prior to joining the Solidarity Center, Allison worked at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), where she supported state affiliates with policy analysis and research on issues ranging from critical race theory to equal pay to international trade. She represented President Randi Weingarten as her liaison to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Labor Advisory Committee and served as the AFL-CIO’s youth representative to the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas. She cut her teeth in the movement as a boycott organizer with UNITE HERE, where she learned that labor must be an intersectional movement for dignity for all. Allison serves on the board of the Trade Justice Education Fund. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University.
Erika Fagan, Program Quality, Learning and Compliance Director
Erika has 20 years of international professional experience working for organizations focused on human rights and international development. She most recently served as the director of grants, contracts and compliance at Counterpart International, where she oversaw its award portfolio totaling more than $190 million and designed the organization’s subrecipient monitoring procedures and tools to assist program staff with monitoring responsibilities. Erika also has worked at Freedom House where, as the manager for compliance and subawards, she was key personnel for the USAID-funded RIGHTS Leader with Associates Award and, as project administrator, coordinated the reporting and administration of the RIGHTS consortium partners. Erika holds a bachelor of arts in East Asian studies, with a focus on Mandarin Chinese and economics, from George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. [LinkedIn]
Joe Heckman, Information Technology Director
Joe Heckman began his labor career in November 1999 when he joined the Machinists Union, where he worked in information systems and communications until 2020. Joe previously worked at the Solidarity Center in 2020–2021, where he was a proud member of OPEIU. He also served as a project manager for UnionTrack, with clients that included several international labor unions. Joe received a bachelor’s degree in information systems management from St. Leo University. Prior to working in the labor movement, Joe worked at IBM and MIL Defense Contractor, and he is a Navy veteran. [LinkedIn]
Yosef Negasi, Human Resources Assistant Director
Yosef joined the Solidarity Center in 2017 to support the human resource team in his primary function as the organization’s payroll accountant. In 2019, he transitioned to the benefits and administration side of the department, where he later assumed a wider role in field staff services and operations. He was named assistant director of human resources in 2022. Prior to the Solidarity Center, Yosef served four years at the International Republican Institute as a member of its human resources department as well as being the institute’s Middle East and North Africa project accountant, focusing on Iran, Jordan, Libya and Morocco. Yosef has a bachelor’s degree in criminal and behavioral studies from the University of Maryland College Park.
Michael Lawrence, Controller
Michael joined the Solidarity Center’s predecessor organization in 1992 and has been controller since 2008. As controller, Michael is responsible for the overall management of the organization’s accounting, budget reporting and cash-flow management; provides staff with timely and accurate financial information; and ensures compliance with accounting requirements and government regulations. Previously, Michael served as Solidarity Center senior accountant for budgets and reporting, and as staff accountant and senior accountant for the Solidarity Center’s predecessor organization.
Darcy Wertz, Operations Director
Darcy supervises staff responsible for facilities and information technology; works with international field representatives to create personnel policies for local staff; updates organizational policies and procedures; and streamlines operations to increase efficiency. Prior to becoming director of operations in 2001, Darcy served as senior cost and pricing analyst, Bids and Proposals section (1999–2000) at AED; worked as administrative manager for Africa programs (1998–1999) at Conservation International and was grants manager (1993–1998) at the Solidarity Center’s predecessor Africa institute. [LinkedIn]