Conference 2015 Speakers


Douglas A. Blackmon is an American writer and journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, which explored the history of peonage and convict lease labor in the South after the American Civil War. He revealed the stories of tens of thousands of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude, which lasted into the 20th century. Slavery by Another Name, a documentary film based on Blackmon’s book, was aired February 13, 2012 on PBS stations. It can be viewed in its entirety on the PBS website here.



Dr. Lori Latrice Martin is an Associate Professor of Sociology and African & African American Studies at Louisiana State University.  Dr. Martin’s areas of interest include: race and ethnicity, racial wealth inequality and black asset poverty, and the myth of postracialism.  Her current work includes an edited volume on social, economical, and demographic consequences of Hurricane Katrina and a book on the black working-class in America. Dr. Martin has published several books, including Black Asset Poverty and the Enduring Racial Divide; The Ex-Slave’s Fortune: The Story of Cynthia Hesdra, Out of Bounds: Racism and the Black AthleteWhite Sports/Black Sports: Racial Disparities in Athletic Programs and Trayvon Martin, Race, and American Justice: Writing Wrong. CONTACT: Dr. Lori Latrice Martin, Department of Sociology, Louisiana State University, 126 Stubbs Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803 T: 225-578-1785 Email:  Review Dr. Martin’s presentation materials on Low Wage Workers and Myth of Post Racialism here



Dr. Steve Striffler is the Doris Zemurray Stone Chair in Latin American Studies and Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans. His research focuses on Latin America and Latin American immigration into the US. His second book, Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food (Yale University Press, 2005), examined the history of the poultry industry and Latin American immigration into the US South. Steve is also the co-editor of Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans. CONTACT: Dr. Steve Striffler, Doris Zemurray Stone Chair in Latin American Studies, Professor of Anthropology and Geography Chair, Department of Anthropology University of New Orleans, Milneburg #273, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA. 70148, T: 504-280-3305, Email



Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national resource and policy center on privatization and responsible contracting. Donald is a founding board member of the Partnership for Working Families. He is the former Political Director of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and founder and executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego-based think tank and policy organization. He is currently on the boards of the Ballot Initiatives Strategy Center, and the Center for Effective Government. His opinion pieces and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The New York Daily News, The New Republic, and other online and print outlets.



Dr. Donna McDaniel-Mitchell is the Assistant Director, Minority Advancement Department, and Special International Rep at Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), one of the fastest-growing unions of construction workers, and one of the most diverse and effective unions representing public service employees. The mission of LIUNA is implemented through nine Regions, more than 40 District Councils, and more than 425 Local Unions. Dr. McDaniel Mitchell received her Bachelor’s Degree from Louisiana State University, Master Degrees in Education and Administration from Xavier University of New Orleans, and her Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from Howard University in Washington, DC.


Jan Moller is director of the Louisiana Budget Project, which monitors and reports on state government spending and how it affects Louisiana’s low- to moderate-income families. He is an award-winning journalist formerly with the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s state capital bureau, where he covered the state budget, health-care policy, higher education and the state’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Prior to that, he covered local and national politics at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and co-authored with Jack Anderson the syndicated “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column that appeared in more than 300 newspapers nationwide. Moller’s work as an investigative reporter has led to reforms in Louisiana’s nursing home regulations and drew national attention to Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate.


sheila-bedi-on-a-federal-initiative-to-keep-students-in-schools-and-off-the-streetsSheila Bedi is a Clinical Associate Professor of Law at the Northwestern School of Law and an attorney with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center. Her work focuses on ending mass imprisonment and enforcing the rights of people caught up in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Previously, Bedi served as the deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in New Orleans and Mississippi where she represented people who are imprisoned in federal class action litigation challenging abusive prison conditions and worked on community-based policy campaigns aimed at reducing incarceration rates, ensuring fairness in the administrative of justice, and improving access to public education and mental health services. Bedi worked with people who were formerly incarcerated and their families on hard fought campaigns that closed abusive prisons and jails, protected people who were imprisoned from sexual violence, improved access to counsel for poor defendants and people living behind bars, developed alternatives to imprisonment and reduced the number of children who are tried and convicted in the adult criminal justice system. Some of her honors include the Public Voices Fellowship, the Heroes for Children Award, the NAACP’s Vernon Dahmer Award, the NAACP’s Fannie Lou Hamer Award. CONTACT: Sheila A. Bedi, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center , 375 E. Chicago Ave., 8th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611, T: 312-503-2492, Email:

Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum is the legal and policy director for the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice. As legal and policy director, she focuses on the intersection of workers’ rights, civil rights, immigration, and constitutional law and includes impact litigation and policy advocacy. She has developed innovative theories to defend labor and community leaders from forced labor, retaliation, and abuse of law enforcement by the police and immigration agents and to advance new forms of collective bargaining with employers on global supply chains and with the state.

Leslie T. Grover, Ph.D is an associate professor of Public Policy and Public Administration at Southern University Baton Rouge. Social inequality; community development policy; and the study of low-income populations are among her research interests.

Eric Horent, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Public Policy and Public Administration at Southern University Baton Rouge. Social inequality; economic development, and the study of low-income populations are among his research interests.


Mike Tusa is an attorney at Sutton, Alker & Rather who specializes in Labor and Employment law. He has a B.S. from the University of New Orleans and a J.D. from Louisiana State University. Tusa has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America (2006-2011 Editions) as one of the top lawyers in the country in Labor & Employment Law. He is a Board Member of the New Orleans Pro Bono Project.


0f59633Ashley Shelton is the Louisiana Director at One Voice Louisiana, and formerly served as the Vice President of Programs at the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF). In the fight for an equitable and inclusive recovery for the Gulf Coast, Shelton works at the state level to achieve equity and inclusion for Louisiana’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations, and also works with community based organizations on their local redistricting plans. Prior to this, Ms. Shelton served as Director of Grantmaking for the Baton Rouge Area The Milford Wampold Support Foundation. Ms. Shelton has received many honors, including selection as a 2005-2006 Fellow in the Emerging Leaders Program at Duke University and the University of Cape Town, and was appointed in 2003 to the Foundation for the Mid South’s Commission to Build Philanthropy. Ms. Shelton attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. Ms. Shelton became a board member in 2013 in which she will serve for 3 years on a staggered schedule.

Stephanie-700x430Stephanie Gharakhanian is the Research and Policy Director at the Workers Defense Project in Austin, Texas. She a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Northeastern University School of Law. Passionate about the intersection between legal advocacy and community organizing, as a law student, Stephanie worked with workers’ centers and workers’ rights organizations in El Paso, Boston, New Orleans, and Mexico City. Prior to attending law school, Stephanie served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Portland, ME and El Paso, TX and lived and worked at a house of hospitality for migrants and refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border. As Director of Research and Policy, Stephanie oversees WDP’s research and publications, city and state level policy work, and Better Builder certification program.


Colette-Battle-367x357Colette Pichon Battle, Esq. is a native of Louisiana who has worked with leaders in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas toward multi-racial cross regional alliance building around human rights and anti-poverty issues. In 2006, Colette co-founded Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc. to help with the equitable rebuilding of impacted communities recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2007 Colette received recognition from that American Bar Association and in 2008, she was awarded the U.S. Civilian Medal of Honor for the state of Louisiana- both awards were for her work in the Katrina recovery throughout the Gulf Coast. Colette currently serves as Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (at Moving Forward Gulf Coast) with projects focused on Immigration, Community Economic Development, Land Sovereignty and Disaster Assistance. Her current work spans from developing advocacy initiatives targeting state and federal immigration reform, to providing legal and advocacy services to communities of Color impacted by the BP Oil Crisis, and developing alternative economic structures for women entrepreneurs in the US South. Ms. Pichon Battle earned her Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies and World Religion from Kenyon College, is a former Thomas J. Watson Fellow (Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal) and a graduate of the Southern University Law Center. She is Director of Action for her local NAACP and a member of the Louisiana State Bar.


STAND with Dignity is a grass-roots organization of low-income residents and workers in New Orleans.  As survivors, we believe unity and self-determination are our most viable solutions.  Now more than ever, when City, State, and Federal government have turned their backs, we believe grassroots leaders must come together to take collective action to change our condition.  We seek to transform all systems of exploitation and racism through organizing the power of the working poor.  To this end, we pledge to ensure the rights of workers and residents to return and recover. Find out more here.

The Congress of Day Laborers brings together Day Laborers and reconstruction workers from day labor corners across the Greater New Orleans area.  Day Laborers are individuals who stand looking for work on street corners.  Day laborers gather on numerous corners across New Orleans, these corners formed after Hurricane Katrina across a city that was destroyed after the levees were breached in the wake of Katrina. Find out more here

Fight for 15 LA – Fast-food workers have come together to fight for fair wages and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations who are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees like us enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation. These are billion-dollar companies that can afford to pay their employees better. When workers are paid a living wage, not only will it strengthen the economy but it will also reduce crime in our neighborhoods. Find out more about the national campaign here

21LA is part of SEIU, the fastest growing union in North America, with 2 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Every day 1 million of those SEIU members work in the public sector to safeguard and improve the public services on which our communities depend. Our members are employees of the state and city/parish governments, school districts, Head Start programs and public service divisions in Louisiana. Find out more here