2019 Transform Finance Cohort: The Future of Workers is Now!

Member Organizations

Our 2019 Cohort members have many things in common, but the two common threads of advocating for low-wage workers and an organizational commitment to engaging with capital more creatively and productively (for workers) ring loudest. From coordinating with public pension funds and foundation endowments to improve construction worker conditions, to developing methods and tools to ensure that investors prioritize deals willing to center and share power with workers, organizations are using the Cohort to launch a range of engagements but with a shared belief: we need more ways to understand and work with capital and financial actors for worker justice.

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL)

For years I have heard people say that power comes from organized people and organized money. I don’t feel like the second half of that equation really sank in until participating in the cohort with Transform Finance. As a movement we have ceded too much of our power, often leaving our money for Wall Street to control through our pensions, home loans, student loans, insurance, university and foundation endowments, etc. Transform Finance has helped peel back the veil of power behind money to explore ways to reclaim our full power.

CTUL is a worker-led organization where workers organize, educate and empower each other to fight for a voice in their workplaces and in their communities. It partners with other organizations and leaders to build a movement to win racial, gender and economic justice. CTUL identifies the root causes of injustice and works to shift the balance of power between those who have it and those who don’t to improve the lives of its communities for present and future generations.

COHORT FOCUS: Establish a worker-driven model of enforcement for non-union construction workers in the Twin Cities by leveraging emergent relationships with unlikely allies and capital providers behind developers of residential real estate projects.

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BECKY TRUJILLO, Finance and Operations Director, CTUL

Becky Kellen de Trujillo enjoys supporting social justice movements through strong risk management and overall infrastructure support as the Operations and Finance Director at Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL). She has a BA in Philosophy and a Masters in Business Management and spent about 20 years in risk management and operations with various financial services corporations prior to joining CTUL. Becky is particularly interested in regulatory equity and financial systems power analysis. She enjoys spending time with her 9 and 15 year old sons.

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MERLE PAYNE, Co-Director and Co-Founder, CTUL

Merle Payne is the Co-Director and co-founder of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), where he has worked for the past 11 years. CTUL is a low-wage worker-led organization that is fighting for fair wages, fair working conditions, and a voice in the workplace for all workers in the Twin Cities metro area.

Jobs With Justice (JWJ)

Jobs With Justice believes that all workers should have collective bargaining rights, employment security and a decent standard of living within an economy that works for everyone. JWJ brings together labor, community, student, and faith voices at the national and local levels to win improvements in people’s lives and shape the public discourse on workers’ rights and the economy.

COHORT FOCUS: Create and sustain truly quality jobs for women and people of color in the construction industry by collaborating with foundation endowments and pension funds. Our goal is to get funds to adopt real estate portfolio investment policies and compliance monitoring practices that promote and protect diversity and quality jobs for women and people of color in construction trades. We also want them to adopt policies insisting on tenants in owned properties commit to high road employment practices. Read more here!


ERIN JOHANSSON, Research Director, JWJ

Erin manages the research program of Jobs With Justice Education Fund, which includes producing original research and public education products. Erin also coordinates the Labor Research and Action Network (LRAN), which brings together scholars and practitioners to build workplace and economic power for working people.

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SCOTT KLINGER, Senior Equitable Development Specialist, JWJ

Scott is helping to move foundations and impact investors to adopt goals for inclusive hiring on construction projects they are investing in within their real estate investment portfolios. His participation in the Transform Finance cohort has opened up new relationships with a spirit of generosity and in a climate of bold imagination.

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)

NDWA works for respect, recognition, and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by over 60 affiliate organizations and local chapters and by thousands of members.

COHORT FOCUS: Improve worker benefits and labor standards for domestic workers with a focus on the gig economy by organizing venture capital firms to invest with impact on workers as a key variable, and demonstrating the business case to maintain that level of ‘high road employment’ management.

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DAWN GEARHART, Gig Economy Researcher, NDWA

Dawn Gearhart has officially joined National Domestic Workers Alliance as the Future of Work[ers] Campaign Director. She has spent 8 years organizing, representing, and advocating for workers in the gig-economy.

TINA VU PHAM, Gig Economy Organizer, NDWA

As the gig economy organizer, Tina is working to understand and improve the working conditions of care and cleaning workers in the gig economy through research, organizing, and advocacy. Her goal is to reach the many domestic workers that are moving to online platforms to find "gig" jobs and to build community and power.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida Public Services Union (FPSU)

We’ve been fighting without understanding capital. We’ve been fighting from the standpoint that it’s evil, that we need it, but we don’t know it. Whether we’re looking at political side or community side, the question is always about resources. We’re tired of losing. Unless we have the ownership of capital and use it the way we want to, we’re going to lose. The Transform Finance Cohort is helping streamline my strands of work around capital, finance and the economy on our path to win.

As a statewide union, SEIU FPSU uses its collective voice and resources to face challenges such as improving the quality and reliability of the services we provide with constantly shrinking budgets, revenue cuts, privatization, downsizing and the rising cost of living and housing across the state.

COHORT FOCUS: Create more affordable housing in Florida for its members by building the blueprint for a socially just private equity fund that will build/acquire more housing.


AFIFA KHALIQ, Director of Programs, SEIU FPSU

Afifa joined SEIU FPSU in 2011 as State Director for the Fair Economy Campaign. She is part of a creative core team that is setting new trends and redefining labor, politics, economy and social justice. She also sits on the board of Florida Immigrant Coalition, Chair of Emgage Florida and a founding member and secretary of South Florida Muslim Federation.


ERIC BRAKKEN, Executive Director, SEIU Florida State Council

Eric, the Director of SEIU Florida State Council since 2014, is now focused on building a statewide community union and political strategy with labor, community, and political organizations, which will build progressive infrastructure across Florida and to work towards a long-term vision of economic and governing power.

Workers Defense Project (WDP)

WDP is a membership-based organization that uses organizing, direct services, and policy change to empower low-income construction workers across Texas and achieve economic justice and fair employment. 

COHORT FOCUS: Identifying opportunities to integrate its Better Builder Program (BBP) standards into commercial real estate investments in Texas through policy initiatives focused on the S in ESG investing. 

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CHAD GRAY, Research Coordinator, WDP

Chad Gray is the Research Coordinator at Workers Defense Project. His work at WDP focuses on corporate and industry research, strategic campaign support, and advancing economic development policies that benefit working families.

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MAYRA HUERTA, Campaign Manager, WDP

Mayra serves as the Austin Campaign Manager for Workers Defense Project, a Texas statewide, membership-based organization devoted to workers’ rights and immigrant advocacy, chiefly aiming to build power among Texas construction workers.

Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA)

Based in Silicon Valley, Working Partnerships USA tackles the root causes of inequality and poverty by leading collaborative campaigns for quality jobs, healthy communities, equitable growth and a vibrant democracy. We are a community organization that brings together the power of grassroots organizing and public policy innovation to drive the movement for a just economy. We build the capacity of workers, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color to lead and govern.

COHORT FOCUS: Analyzing the real estate investment landscape in the Bay Area, from large-scale private developments in San Jose to the apartment building owners in small cities surrounding San Jose, to identify investors, their relationships, and potential leverage to:

  1. in San Jose development, move developers of major construction projects to strengthen job quality standards, worker protections, and access to high-road training and careers for under-represented communities; and

  2. in small cities, support stronger policies to protect and empower tenants at risk of displacement, and shift incentives for apartment owners away from profit models based on displacing working families from their homes.


JESSICA VOLLMER, Associate Director of Organizing, WPUSA

Jessica joined WPUSA in 2014 as a project research associate and has since worked on civic engagement campaigns and fundraising, before becoming the Associate Director of Organizing in 2018. She has served as president of her union chapter, steward, labor-management committee representative, and bargaining team chair.


LOUISE AUERHAHN, Director of Economics and Workforce Policy, WPUSA

Louise joined WPUSA in 2001 and has served in numerous roles. Her current work focuses on the impacts of Silicon Valley's changing economy on working families and the middle class, including efforts to create quality, sustainable jobs and place working people, women and communities of color at the center of the emerging green economy.

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ABOUBACAR “ASN” NDIAYE, Housing and Transportation Policy Manager

Asn joined WPUSA in April 2017 as the Housing and Transportation Policy Manager, and works on housing, workforce, and transportation equity issues. Prior to joining Working Partnerships, he worked as Strategic Researcher for SEIU Local 1, responsible for planning and developing organizing campaigns for building services workers in the Midwest, and as an Employment Specialist for Goodwill Industries of Houston.

2019 Coaches & Collaborators