2018 At-Large Delegates: Candidate Questionnaires

United Working Families has six at-large delegates who sit on our Party Committee and help set the direction and carry out the work of building independent political power. This year, we have 8 candidates running for at-large delegate seats. Read their questionnaires here and come to the Convention to elect our next term of at-large delegates: We have six at-large delegate positions. In 2018, 4 current delegates are running for re-election and 4 are running as new candidates:


Mayra Lopez-Zuñiga: Bio: Mayra is the proud daughter of immigrant parents who moved to Chicago from Mexico in search of a better future. Her family settled in the Back of the Yards community, where she grew up confronted by the realities of growing up in a low-income immigrant community. Mayra has been organizing in Chicago for the past 8 years. The majority of that time, she organized with The Resurrection Project (TRP) where she organized around education, redistricting, and immigration reform in Back of the Yards. Mayra led a successful campaign in 2011 to advocate for a new ward in the City of Chicago’s redistricting process. The campaign specifically demanded to consolidate the number of wards that encompassed the Back of the Yards community, leading to the creation of the new 15th ward. In 2013, Mayra’s work shifted to focus on education and parent engagement. She led the implementation and expansion for the Parent Mentor Program and created the organization’s base for parent engagement. In 2015, Mayra took a short break to work as a field organizer for the Garcia for Chicago campaign where she was the field director for all of the southwest side wards with a Latino majority population. In 2016, Mayra helped elect the first Asian American legislator to the Illinois Legislature, State Representative Theresa Mah. Early in 2017, Mayra became District Director for Representative Mah. She continues to be actively involved in Back of the Yards, Pilsen and McKinley Park where she currently resides. Mayra graduated from University of Chicago in 2010 with a B.A. in Anthropology and Latin American studies. She is proud graduate of Chicago Public Schools and an alumni fellow of UnidosUS’s National Institute for Latino School Leadership. Why do we need to build an independent political party? We need an independent political party to elect people whose values and desire to run for office align to a political platform that aims to represent working class people, people of color, undocumented folks and any group who is often disenfranchised from the political system. Every day, more and more, money and special interest corrupts the way our political system works. Currently, machine politics has monopolized the way people become elected officials. If people are interested in running for office, they must align themselves to elected officials, even if their values and work ethic is questionable. This is why it is so imperative for us to create a alternative way for people, specially everyday people, to become involved with politics and run for office. We need to create a way for our progressive moment to elect people to office and I think United Working Families should and can be that vehicle. Together we can create a way for elected officials to become accountable to their constituencies and empower people to vote people out of office when they are not doing right by them. At the same time, we need to broaden the pool of candidates, create a bench of progressive elected officials who come from our movement. I think UWF can become the vehicle to run and elect movement elected officials and to keep them accountable too. What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision? As mentioned before, I think there is great need for an alternative political space in Chicago. I space for people politics. My vision is that United Working Families becomes that space. I hope UWF becomes as space where people on the ground can find support to run people from the community to office. My hope is that the work and platform of UWF is shaped by the membership and in turn it’s membership define and keep accountable the work of the organization so that the work and politics of the organization are always relevant to the communities it encompasses. This way, the organization can also be supportive when people on the group wish to hold their elected officials accountable. I want UWF to become a powerful coalition of people in Chicago who are defining the standards for good, accountable, community centered elected officials. I am running for United Working Families’ party committee because in my short time doing electoral politics in the City of Chicago, I have observed a hunger for change among the Latino community. People are tired of politics as usual and although that has created a deep distrust of the way politics works, people are also challenging the way they see elected officials. People are challenging the perception of their agency within the system. If we set forth higher standards for our elected officials, hold them accountable for listening to constituent concerns, and taking action on issues relevant to the communities they represent – perhaps our quality of life would improve. However, there is a gap between the organizing happening on the ground in the communities and building the capacity needed to run successful campaigns. I believe my skills as community organizer, field director for political campaigns and my current role as District Director for an elected official can be helpful to UWF as we create a platform for the upcoming year leading up to 2019. I want to help create a platform that encompasses issues that matter to people in the southwest side of Chicago. I have plenty of relationships in the southwest side of Chicago that I would love to activate and bring forth to UWF to grow our movement and power. What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families? I have 8+ years of experience in Chicago. A lot of my organizing work is centered on community and political organizing with individuals in Pilsen and Back of the Yards. My first organizing campaign was around redistricting in 2011 negotiating with the Latino and Black caucus around a unified and compact ward encompassing Back of the Yards. In 2014, I helped Rafael Yanez campaign for 15th ward alderman and in 2015 I was one of the first Field Directors hire by the Garcia for Chicago campaign where I oversaw most of Southwest Side wards in Chicago. In 2016, I helped Theresa Mah in her campaign for State Representative and I have worked with her for the past two years as her Chief of Staff. Most recently, I was the campaign manager for the Team Chuy slate which successfully elected Beatriz Frausto Sandoval as Subcircuit judge, Alma Anaya as Cook County commissioner and Aaron Ortiz as State Representative. I have been on the UWF Party Committee since 2017 and also sit on the Political Committee where I have helped guide the endorsement process. Organization affiliations (unions, community groups, etc): Mijente, We are Back of the Yards, UWF

Jay Travis: Bio: I am an organizer with a 25-year track record of grassroots organizing and coalition building with low-income and working families. As one of the youngest Executive Director of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, I led one of Chicago’s oldest, Black, intergenerational organizations that organized to address the housing, employment, safety and senior (elderly) needs of families in North Kenwood, Oakland and Bronzeville. As a steadfast proponent of racial, economic and social justice, I have supported progressive candidates and worked to build infrastructure for working families to elect accountable people with a commitment to a progressive agenda. I was endorsed by United Working Families as a candidate for State Representative in 2016, and I played a supportive role in Karen Lewis’ and Chuy Garcia’s bids for mayor. I have also worked to build community and labor coalitions to strengthen our fight for education justice both locally and nationally. Why do we need to build an independent political party? Elected officials in both parties have become beholden to their billionaire donors, and less and less accountable to the needs of low-income and working families. Critical issues such as school privatization, the abuse of TIF funds and attacks on affordable housing enjoy bi-partisan support. Entrenched political machines have prolonged the passage of critical legislation at the state level based on political gamesmanship and not the needs of the people. What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision? My vision for working families is that it strengthens the infrastructure needed to elect representative, progressive, accountable political leadership. While I feel that the establishment of a full independent party will take time, I fully support that vision. I also support Working Families as a vehicle that is rooted in community and labor coalitions based on mutual respect. I am interested in working to elect accountable political leadership at the municipal, state and federal level. What is your previous political and activist work? I have a history of working to build political power through assisting grassroots organizers with connecting issue based organizing with voter engagement/turnout and identifying progressive candidates to run for office. I ran for State Representative of 26th (twice) and created a intergenerational, racially representative, community labor coalition that won over 11,000 votes in the 2016 election. People United for Action, a grassroots Independent organization, was created by people that worked on my first campaign, and is still active. Organization affiliations (unions, community groups, etc): Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, People United for Action

Manuel Diaz: Bio: 27 year old organizer. Cicero raised. 1st generation everything Why do we need to build independent political power? We need to build an independent political party because a dominant two party system only protects the interests of the wealthy and well connected. We need to have a vehicle to bring the needs of the marginalized to the table. We need to build an organization that can protect promising leaders from compromising to the political establishment. We need to create an independent political party to bring power to our communities of color. What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision? Recruit and back good people to run and in strategic places and challenge the status quo. Maintain a close relationship with those candidates that become elected officials to ensure the presence of a progressive agenda. Build off the recent victories and create a real alternative in those communities to expand the work into surrounding areas. What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families? Workplace organizer to take on bad employers and drive pro worker legislation in Illinois. Political organizer on the southwest side of Chicago. Worked on the campaigns to elect Alma Anaya, Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval, Aaron Ortiz and Chuy Garcia in 2018 and delivered an exceptional blow to long time machine operatives on the southwest side. Elected as a UWF board delegate for 2018 and served as co-chair for the fundraising committee to establish alternative sources of revenue for the organization. Organizational affiliations (unions, community groups, etc) Member United Working Families Member National Writers Union

Roberto Clack: Bio: I am originally from the the diverse and working class city of Joliet, Illinois. I have dedicated my entire adult life to the cause of social justice organizing working as a housing, labor and antiwar organizer. Why do we need to build independent political power? Politics in our country and the city of Chicago are not serving working class people and are beholden to 1% interest throughout various levels of government. United Working Families is dedicated to building a grassroots, people powered organization that can fight for the interest of working class people in Chicago and beyond. I believe the only way we can counteract big moneyed interest is through building grassroots power and organization. UWF is a leading organization/party, in building this power in Chicagoland. What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision? We need to continue to grow and build on our success as an organization. As a 25th ward resident and party delegate, I was one of the first board members to advocate for the endorsement of Alma Anaya and Aaron Ortiz. As one of the leaders of the effort to get Alma Anaya elected Cook County Commissioners in the 25th ward, we got the best vote percentage and vote total in this important victory for progressives on the southwest side. We did this in-spite of being massively outspent and facing opponents who had history and where rooted in our communities. Being part of the leadership in this victory demonstrated both foresight and know how in conducting a winning campaign. As an incumbent party delegate, I seek reelection to be able to continue this work and build upon our collective success. Securing electoral victories is important in building confidence in our individual & group membership to take on even larger challenges and in building legitimacy with the broader public. Beyond that, we must build out local organizations as well as our umbrella organization, UWF. We will only continue to win if we broaden our organizational network to include more organizations as well as activating and signing up dues paying individual members. Individual members were unsung contributors to victories like Alma Anaya and Aaron Ortiz and I believe by broadening this network, under a bold progressive politics, we will win real change in the lives of working class people throughout Chicagoland. What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families? As mentioned before, I have a diverse set experiences organizing for social justice. Working in the peace movement, I worked with veterans who had experienced wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we actively organized to oppose these wars and educate the public on why we should challenge militarism as our government's main priority. While pensions get cut, schools closed and safety nets slashed, the prioritization of military spending and war goes unchallenged, even by some progressives. As part of my work with the veterans movement in Chicago, we organized the NATO medal ceremony return, a campaign to fight VA privatization as well as engaged in organizing with local labor and community groups. Some of this work included international solidarity, such as organizing in support of the Iraqi Oil Workers Union, etc. As an economic rights organizer I have worked in the housing movement organizing tenants to hold accountable their landlords for better and safer living conditions as well as organized in support of policy campaigns, such as the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance. I have almost 5 years experience as a labor organizer, organizing low wage workers to fight for better working conditions and dignity in the workplace. As a UWF Party Delegate, I was a part of leading field operations in the 25th wards for Alma Anaya for 7th District Cook County Commissioner and was the only volunteer to bring a broom to the celebration party after we accomplished the southwest side sweep :) Organizational affiliations (unions, community groups, etc) UWF Party Delegate, Unite 25, DSA


Desmon Yancy Bio: For most of the last decade, I have worked as a labor and community organizer. I began my career organizing home health care workers on the South and West sides of Chicago with SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana. In 2010, I launched a leadership development program designed to train union members to organize, not just in their workplace, but in their communities. The result of this program has produced nearly 1,000 organizers trained to fight for dignity and respect in the workplace and in their neighborhoods. After leaving SEIU in 2013, I began working with various community organizations on a number of projects. My most rewarding project was managing a voter registration program that registered 50,000 voters across the city. In 2015, I became one of the first staff hired for United Working Families. As the Deputy Political Director, I coordinated 11 challenger races for Chicago City Council and was instrumental in guiding Alderman Toni Foulkes to her second consecutive re-election campaign. Most recently, I have been working with a coalition of community organizations that are fighting for police accountability. Why do we need to build independent political power? We need an independent political party, because the Democratic Party is not responsive to the needs of its voters, particularly Black voters. There needs to be an alternative to the two-party system, both nationally and locally. What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision? My vision is that UWF becomes that alternative that I wrote about earlier. Residents on the south and west sides are hungry for an alternative. UWF is on the right path towards providing more than the status quo and is uniquely positioned to organize these communities, by their willingness to talk to city residents and involve them in the decisions that affect them, while providing political education so they understand the choices and the consequences. What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families? I have previously served as a UWF board member and as the co-chair of the Political Committee, I was instrumental in offering guidance on our 2017 & 2019 electoral strategy. As one of the few board members that staffed our inaugural campaign season, I often remind the board about our successes and challenges, as a way to provide a roadmap towards our success. - 2015  - UWF Deputy Political Director - 2016 - 2018  UWF Board Member; UWF Political Committee Co-Chair - 2016 - 2018 Director of Racial Justice (Organizing Director) Organizational affiliations (unions, community groups, etc) Member - Action Now; Member - Workers Center for Racial Justice, Board Vice-Chair - River Oaks Community Education and Development Corp.

Ada Vargas:

I am a queer, gender non-conforming, Latinx, immigrant of low socioeconomic background who has been pushed and pulled by all of these identities through struggle. I am a first generation college graduate, an activist, an organizer, and someone looking to take away the common narrative of "that's just the way things are." Born in Mexico, raised in Chicago, and expanded by so many communities as I traveled across the country and the world, I have returned to Chicago to fight to make this city and the communities that raised me more than they ever dreamed.
Why do we need to build independent political power?
The change that is required for the majority of people in this city and country are clear-as-day not going to come from the traditional avenues of power. We need a bold vision for political engagement and building independent power from traditional lines is crucial to this and we need it to truly welcome and encompass all who are suffering under our current political arrangement which ignores them as it looks to moneyed interests for direction.
What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision?
My vision for the United Working Families is one where we are taking concrete steps towards a transformative world where workers' rights are central to the conversation, where universal healthcare is the standard, where racial justice and restorative justice are at the center of our politics, where our schools, roads, infrastructure, and environment are tended to so that people can thrive! I see my role in achieving this vision in pushing for engagement of our membership towards reforms that put these elements at the core, where we come together with all communities that can benefit from a wide-ranging change in how things are done to make these changes come to fruition. I hope to bring bold ideas and bold plans of action to this end.
What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families?
I have worked on myriad political campaigns both as a volunteer and a staffer. I organized for months for the Bernie Sanders campaign during the primary season while I lived in New York. I have also done extensive work on non-partisan efforts towards youth civic engagement. I have not worked directly with the United Working Families but see our shared values as a great force pulling me towards working together.
Organizational affiliations (unions, community groups, etc)

I am an active member of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and specifically I am the co-chair of the Electoral Working Group.

Sophia Margarita Olazaba:
I grew up in both Back of the Yards South Chicago and parts of Indiana (East Chicago and Crown Point). Both of these communities exposed me to the realities that both urban and rural communities face. I have over 10 years of experience in both Illinois and Indiana as an organizer.  My experience includes organizing around issues like the Dream ACT, Earned Sick Time and the  Equal Pay Coalition. With regards to political experience, I developed and executed field programs, built campaigns, created strategy and structure for progressive candidates. I have also worked with United Steelworkers where I learned the in’s and outs of arbitration for local unions and defending the pension of retirees.
Why do we need to build independent political power?
What I learned from my education is that every big city has its own history in how the two parties came into its form and in how committed they have been in staying true to the needs of the people. In my experience, I believe we need to build a independent political party because the current system makes it extremely challenging to elect any progressive candidates that reflects the hopes of everyday working class progressive to break through the apparatus of the machine. I began my work organizing around the Dream Act with its co-sponsor in Indiana. If you ever lived in Indiana and experienced the way in which politics operate in the Northwest region, one would see that the two party system is devoid of any political machine. However, in any attempts by Democrats to moderately align with republicans, they would not budge to support issues surrounding immigration, the Dream act, reproductive healthcare, LGBTQ issues and several other issues that affected a more progressive base in order to gain political votes. In the city of Chicago, this view was strengthened after I was exposed to the different sects of the democratic party. The machine, moderates, etc. and because of this, the two party system has proven time and time again that it is NOT effective for the working class of this state. This two party system halts creating ordinances that provide more economic resources and economic growth to neighborhoods that lack them. A Independent political party, as I have come to see it, challenges the status quo and is the sole force for backing progressive leadership, ideas and ordinances that the city of Chicago needs. I also see that an Independent political party diminishing the ""good ole boys"" patriarchal concept that tends to provide further corruption and lessens that ability for women, more so women of color to run for office.
What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision?
My vision for United Working Families (UWF) is to continue the work of championing issues that build the working class and working class families, help progressive candidates win elections to continue to build a progressive movement based around the needs and realities of everyday people. When I think about the future and the type of leadership I want to see, I envision honest people who are committed to social justice,  I want to see representatives that govern with the people, leaders that empower the voices of their constituents, efforts to democratize the electoral process, and I want to see more women and people of color in the decision making political process. The role I believe I play is one that reflects my own personal and professional experience, and one that reflects the experience of people who underrepresented and underserved. I believe I bring political and electoral experience I lived through and worked with in Indiana and in the city of Chicago. I bring a wealth of experience on how to build campaigns, developing strategy and working the field. I also have history in building volunteer capacity and potential. Additionally, I have relationships with with progressive groups and people across the state. I am confident my personal and professional experience can build up (UWF) into the independent political party is strives to be.
What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families?
In terms of my political and activist work, I first put boots on the ground as an organizer with then co-sponsor around the Dream Act, Richard Lugar. Although unsuccessful, I worked with various Indiana University student activists to push our university’s Trustee’s to commit to charging undocumented youth in-state tuition and they did. Since then in the city of Chicago I worked as a representative for Chicago Foundation for Women on the Earned Sick Time Coalition as well as the  Equal Pay Day Coalition. Most recently, I worked as the Field Manager for Marie Newman, where we took on a 15 year democratic incumbent and exposed his voting record, he did not support and as a democrat continues to vote against immigration reform, reproductive rights, $15 minimum wage and does not support LGBTQ people or their rights. It was recently that I was introduced to United Working Families, while canvassing for one of their slated candidates (Delia Ramirez) but the mission and vision is what I have and continue to dedicate my work towards. As part of (UWF), I commit to supporting and building up the mission and vision of the organization.
Organizational affiliations (unions, community groups, etc)

Campaign Workers Guild (union member), NARAL Pro - Choice America (Fellow), Northside Democracy for America (Steering Committee), Mom's Demand Action - LaGrange, Indivisible - Western Springs,  Will County Progressives.

Todd St Hill

Todd St Hill was a member of Chicago’s We Charge Genocide working group where he was a part of a delegation of 8 organizers who attended the 53 rd session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture presenting a document on the abuses and misconduct of the Chicago Police Department.  He also helped to initiate citywide Copwatch training programs while participating in We Charge Genocide working group. Todd is also a member if the Chicago chapter of the Black Youth Project100 where he served as Organizing CoChair for the Chicago Chapter and nationally as the National Chapter Coordinator for national coordination, organizational support and political education. BYP100 is an activist based organization of 18-35yr olds dedicated to creating justice and liberation for all Black people.
Why do we need to build independent political power?
Working people, particularly Black working people, comprise a large percentage of public sector unionized jobs.  This is especially impactful in Chicago.  Yet they do not have enough of a voice in the development of the public policy that impacts, or will impact their lives. Working people in this city from all backgrounds have the potential to come together, organize amongst themselves, and produce candidates and policy (and policy platforms) that are truly trusted by, and accountable to grassroots movements and organizations.  For years this has been hampered by an entrenched status quo of how political decisions are carried out in the city.  It is only through the creation of an independent political party that the voice of working people can truly be heard.
What is your vision for UWF and how do you see your role in achieving that vision?
As many of Chicagoans have seen the elected officials that represent the interests of Black working people have failed to fulfill those obligations. Whats worse, they are seemingly unapologetic in their failure. Now more than ever Independent Political Organizations like UWF are/can be poised to define and support accountable and progressive grassroots candidates to elected offices and begin to transform Chicago politics. Through a project of community engagement and assessment and development a program can be developed that reflects the opinions and desires of working people. This kind of approach is one that can empower working people where they are, in their neighborhoods and work places, and develop a layer of grassroots independent political activity in concert with independent political organization (UWF).
What political and activist work have you done, including work to build United Working Families?
--Johnae Strong 5th District State Representative election.
Grass Gap/Decriminalize Black 
--A campaign aimed at addressing the disproportionate way in which African Americans (youth in particular) are criminalized for the same or similar possession and  recreational usage of small amounts of Cannabis. Co-authored and introduced policy that attempted to lower the penalties for possession of small amounts of Cannabis that became the basis of the (720 ILCS 550/) Cannabis Control Act.
#SayHerName (Chicago, IL) 
--A national campaign aimed at addressing Black women’s experience of criminalization, profiling and policing.  
#ByeAnita (Chicago, IL) 
Co-drafter of campaign plan to unseat former State Attorney Anita Alverez for the cover up of the circumstances surrounding the death Laquan McDonald. Organized a complimentary GOTV strategy. 
Fight For  $15 
--Partnership between BYP100 and the Fight For $15 campaign ∙ Turned out 200  young people of color to national day of action. Assisted in organizing Black fast food workers. Produced infomercial about the experience and statistics of low wage work for people of color.
Coalitions and working groups:
We Charge Genocide working group (Chicago, IL) 
--Co-Developed citywide Know Your Rights trainings and curriculum
#ChiStops empowered young people through popular education and leadership training to resist racial profiling and other biased policing. 
--Participated in delegation of youth who submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture addressing the racial disparities and instances of police brutality by Chicago Police Department.
--Participated on campaign to achieve justice for torture survivors of John Burge. 
Succeeded in receiving reparations for torture survivors. Development of public school curriculum on history of John Burge case. 
Resist, Reimagine and Rebuild coalition (Chicago, IL) 
--Contributed in the development of a citywide coalition of 32 Black and Brown led organization aimed at resisting rightward political turn of the US government (post Trump election) developing campaigns and alternative policy aimed strengthening Black and Brown communities and developing the necessary organizational infrastructure to drive policy and action.  
 Organizational affiliations (unions, community groups, etc)
I am currently a member of the Black Youth Project100 (5yrs). I was a founding member of Resist, Reimagine, Rebuild coalition where I served on the Coordinating Council.