Board & Staff
Board & Staff
Larry Spivack is a Regional Director for AFSCME Council 31. He has dedicated his entire adult life to the labor movement. He is currently regional director of AFSCME Council 31 in Illinois, and has worked for AFSCME since 1984, as an organizer, staff representative, and collective bargaining supervisor. Previously, he was a teacher in the public school system and the state of Illinois. He loves labor history so much, that the most fun he has is being part of the Illinois Labor History Society.
Vice President Southern Region
Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs Director, Great Plains Laborers District Council representing LiUNA locals in central Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. For the past 35 years he has edited the Grand Prairie Union News for the Bloomington & Normal Trades & Labor Assembly. In 2000 the ILHS published his book, "Fiery Struggle: Illinois Fire Fighters Build a Union." He speaks frequently on labor topics, does regular local radio commentaries and is always digging up Illinois labor history nuggets. He serves on numerous local agency and other boards in central Illinois, including as past President of the McLean County Historical Society.
Vice President Northern Region
Debby Pope has been a social justice activist since high school and a union fighter since the 1980’s when she helped organize a union and negotiate a first contract in her federal government agency (USDA/FNS). She became a teacher and served as a school delegate from both Schurz and Gage Park High Schools and more recently as a retiree delegate. She has been active in CTU for many years, serving over the years, as member, chair and liaison for the women’s rights committee, high school functional vice president and as CUT Editor and Director of Education and Labor Outreach. Debby joined the ILHS in 2002 and has served as Secretary to the Board for many years. She believes that ILHS’ mission is a vital and integral part of the labor movement today. Debby says, “I’m a retiree who is not ‘really’ retired. My happiest moments are on a picket line, bullhorn in hand. I believe it’s vital to have a strong CTU to help members in the fight for better working conditions and educational justice for all.”
Julia Berkowitz, was born and raised in Chicago. She's been an Electrician for 20 years, currently working as a maintenance electrician at the CTA. She received her undergrad in American History from UIC in 2009 and also took post-graduate courses on labor history at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her interests include 1930s inter-war history of labor and gender and women in the steel industry in the Calumet region in the 1970s.
Staff at Illinois Federation of Teachers
Tim Drea, currently Secretary Treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO, was elected to office on April 12, 2007. Before his election to the office of Secretary Treasurer he was the Legislative and Political Director for Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). The son of a coal miner in Central Illinois, Tim followed his father and worked as a coal miner for eleven years as a member of UMWA Local 9819. After being laid off in 1990, he finished his education and earned a BA in Political Studies at Sangamon State University joining the Senate Democratic Staff as the Executive Committee staff person for Senator Emil Jones, Jr. Mr. Drea is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and currently serves the state of Illinois on the Employment Security Advisory Board.
Peter A. Fosco
Peter A. Fosco is the Regional Director of the Great Lakes Region Organizing Committee (GROC) and Secretary-Treasurer of Laborers’ Local Union 1. Peter also has served in various positions with LiUNA from International Representative to Training Director/Instructor over the past twenty-seven years. He is extremely involved in community activities, various youth sports programs and religious education.
Edward L.W. Green, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Government, Law, and Justice department of Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Green focuses on the sociology of punishment, criminological theory, and corrections. He is actively engaged in qualitative prison research and the study of both the social and human consequences of mass incarceration.
Bucky Halker is a songwriter, performer, and historian with 15 albums to his credit, including Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill (2015) and The Ghost of Woody Guthrie (2012), an original music tribute to Guthrie. Halker, a Ph.D. in labor history, is the author of For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-1895 and the producer-scholar for the Folksongs of Illinois CD series, vols. 1-5 (2007-2014). He serves on the board of the Woody Guthrie Foundation.
Katie Jordan has been a member of the Workers United union for over 52 years, where she served as shop steward, Secretary and Vice President, and president of her local. She is currently serving her union as International GEB and President/Coordinator of the Retiree Association. She was a single, working mother of three children.Her activism is vast and varied. She has been part of: the Policy Council of Citizen Action/Illinois; the Chicago Labor for Peace, Prosperity and Justice; the national U.S. Labor against the War (USLAW) Steering Committee; the Steering Committee of Jobs with Justice; delegate to the Chicago Federation of Labor; and has been with WWHP since its inception.She has been on the boards of: the Chicago Chapter of CLUW (president); the National Executive Board of CLUW; the Minority Women Issues and Affirmative Action Committee (Co-chair); and the Sergeant at arms Committee (Co-chair).
Sarah Joy Liles
Sarah Joy Liles is an Estimator/Project Manager and member of Pipefitters’ Local 597 Chicago. After earning a BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois Chicago, she began her apprenticeship in 2003. Sarah’s interest in the labor movement led her to coursework in the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois Chicago in 2013. She now teaches Labor Studies part time at the Pipe Fitters' Training Center Local Union 597. She also volunteers for Chicago Women in Trades as a facilitator for hands-on pipe trades workshops, junior CWIT historian, and on the board of directors. Sarah lives in a 1884 Skilled Worker’s Cottage in the historic Pullman National Monument.
Lisa Oppenheim is Director of the Chicago Metro History Fair and holds a M.A. in Public History. Lisa was Editor-in-Chief of the Labor Research Review and a former union member of the GCIU. She serves on the boards of the Chicago Area Women’s History Council and the Illinois State Historical Society.
Liesl Miller Orenic is a professor of American history at Dominican University. Before teaching at Dominican she worked in the airline industry and as a higher education union organizer. She's the author of On the Ground: Labor Struggle in the American Airline Industry (2009) and is currently writing about Chicago's Teamsters Local 743.
David A. Peterson Jr.
David Peterson was appointed as president of the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in 2009, the World's first and only Black Labor History Museum. A Chicago native born and raised on the southeast side, Peterson attended the University of Chicago's Laboratory school, William H. Ray Elementary, and Kenwood Academy High school. After graduating from Kenwood, he attended Florida A & M University (FAMU) graduating with a BS in Political Science with a concentrating in Urban Planning and Economic Development. While Peterson did not go through a museum studies program in college, he is no stranger to the NAPRPP Museum. Peterson’s family moved to Pullman when he was in middle school and when he was in high school, he often volunteered at the museum. Peterson was also a member of St. Sabina Church where he was
active at a very young age. After graduating from FAMU in 2007 Peterson Volunteered with Saving Our Seeds ex offender re-entry program, an organization where one of his mentors the late Joseph Watkins was Founder. This grounded him with the understanding of the needs and issues concerning low income and very low-income people in the Grand Boulevard Community. For several years while in college during the summer, he worked at the museum. From 2008-2010 he toured nationally for the NAPRPP museum with Amtrak as the coordinator for the museum's traveling exhibit. Peterson credits his mindset and approach to the cultural arena, framed through the environment that exists at DePaul University's School of New Learning where he worked on his Master's degree in Applied Professional Studies (MAAPS) with a focus area in Facilitating the design and
development of business and entrepreneurial endeavors in the urban setting.
As President, Peterson is poised and ready to continue the mission of preserving and showcasing the history of the Black Labor Union Movement that impacted the modern day civil rights movement. That story is captured in the NAPRPP Museum. His words eloquently underscore his commitment to the Museum’s continued mission. While preparing to take on the role as president, he established a youth and young adult program division, within the museum's framework. It is called MUSEUM 44, in honor of the 44th President Barack Obama. Because growing up He was influenced by the Culture of Hip Hop, following and looking up to Artists like Common while being a Member of the Chi Rock Nation in the "Euphonics" Chapter it was only right he gave that same love back to the next generation. "My goal is to Preserve, Rebuild and Move forward, with a fresh mindset." He believes this approach will assist in creating an environment that is inviting to the younger
demographic and contributes to the sustainability of the Museum. This platform landed him on stage at the Obama Foundation's first international Leadership Summit on a Panel discussion about youth engagement with Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments and Prince Harry. After becoming President and Executive Director, Peterson also established a Green Initiatives Program Division to create an environmental education component to empower Blacks with the information needed to be aware of the new developments taking place in the south lake front region also known as the ͞Calumet Collaborative͟. After studying the works of A. Philip Randolph as a youth and fine tuning that story under the leadership and Mentorship of Dr. Lyn Hughes founder of the Museum, Peterson decided to take his influence even further in 2015 by founding Randolph's Dream Community Development Corporation to Foster the use of ͞Cultural Economic Development͟ in Pullman National Monument to be used as a model for Blacks
Globally. He also is a product and success story of the Chicago Housing Authority/ Central Advisory Council entrepreneurship pilot program which gave him the foundation to start and Co found Eat II Live Restaurant Group, LLC.
Robert G. Reiter, Jr.
Bob Reiter is the President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, the third largest central labor council of the national AFL-CIO. He previously served two terms as Secretary-Treasurer of the CFL from July 2010 to May 2018. Bob’s appreciation for the history of labor informs his understanding of the need to reposition the labor movement in light of its history. He is a third-generation member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. Throughout his career, he has worked as a labor attorney, an organizer, a negotiator and a lobbyist. Bob’s role as President allows him to be the voice of every CFL-affiliated union, representing the interests of labor throughout Chicago and Cook County. Bob holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from Eastern Illinois University, and a Juris Doctor degree from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Keith M. Richardson
Keith M. Richardson is currently the President of American Postal Workers Union, Chicago Local 0001. He is a lifelong resident of Chicago, a second generation union Activist following in his mother Betty’s footsteps who was an officer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 743 Chicago, and he is an activist for young workers. Keith currently serves on several boards within his Union, as well as, being recently elected to serve on the national board of the Coalition Of Black Trade Unionists as a member at large.
Stephanie Seawell Fortado
Stephanie Seawell Fortado received her doctoral degree in history from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. She is a former Treasurer and President of the Graduate Employees Organization, a local of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. She spends a lot of her time thinking, researching and writing about working people and parks and public space.
Judy Simpson is a Field Representative for LiUNA Local 733 in Marion, Illinois. Prior to this, she spent 27 years at Southern Illinois University Morris Library where she worked in Special Collections. Judy is active in the research, education, and preservation of labor history in the southern portion of the state. Her interests include the labor history of faith groups, women, southern Illinois and the coal industry.
Mike Siviwe Elliott
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, he is a third generation member (retired) of the United Auto Workers and is a longtime labor, political, community and international activist. Currently serving as Labor Committee Chair for the Chicago Alliance against Racist & Political Repression and is a leader in the campaign to establish an all elected civilian police accountability council (CPAC). Mike works closely with the young activists of the Black Lives Matter movement and various progressive labor unions in Chicago. Mike was recently arrested and is currently facing false charges, after video recording a Metra police officer mishandling a young Black women.
Tom Suhrbur grew up in a union family in Cicero, Illinois. He received a BA and MA in U.S. history at the UIC and a Certificate of Advanced Studies in labor history from NIU. He co-authored a book "Union Brotherhood, Union Town: The History of the Chicago Carpenters' Union, 1863-1987." He taught social studies for 17 years, and his last teaching job was at Geneva HS (Illinois). He retired in 2011 after 26 years as a union organizer for the Illinois Education Association.
A longtime union member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). Presently serves on the Chicago Local Board, and has been a delegate to the past four National Conventions. Demonstrating her strong advocacy for Women's Rights, she is a member of CLUW, (Coalition of Labor Union Women) Working Women's History Project, and is an inductee in the Illinois Labor History Society’s Union Hall of Honor. She is a recipient of the Nelson Algren Award given, in part, for her activism and her one-woman show which features the life of Lucy Parsons who fought for the 8-Hour work day, and freedom of speech. Her latest honor was the Olga Madar Award presented by the Chicago Chapter of CLUW.
Ex Officio Members
Michael T. Carrigan Michael T. Carrigan, currently president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, was first elected on February 28, 2007. Carrigan served as secretary-treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO for seven years prior to becoming president. Before that he served as business manager/financial secretary for IBEW Local 146 in Decatur from 1992 to 2000. He was a journeyman wireman in Decatur from 1978 to 1990 before becoming assistant business manager of the local. Carrigan graduated from MacMurray College (Jacksonville) in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree. At the national level, Carrigan serves on the national AFL-CIO State Federation and Central Labor Council Advisory Committee, at the behest of the AFL-CIO President. At the regional level, Mr. Carrigan is the chairman of the 12-state AFL-CIO Midwest Labor Federation Council. At the state level, he is a member of the Illinois Prevailing Wage Council Executive Board and in 2005 was appointed to serve on the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board.
Jorge Ramirez Jorge Ramirez is president of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) and a vice president of the national American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The CFL is the third largest central labor council of the national AFL-CIO, representing half a million working people across Chicago and Cook County. Jorge has served as an officer of the CFL since July 2006 and was elected the CFL’s first Latino president in July 2010. In February 2015, he was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council as a vice president, helping to guide the daily work of the national federation. In his role as CFL president, Jorge serves on executive and advisory boards for labor, civic, and community organizations across the city and around the country. His involvement with these organizations allows him to represent the interests of labor and protect the fundamental rights of all workers. He serves on boards for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Choose Chicago, Chicago Infrastructure Trust, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois Special Olympics, and other civic and community groups. Jorge graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a double major in marketing and computer information systems. He later went on to receive his Juris Doctor from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He and his wife, Catrina, have four sons.
Stefanee is a third generation union member and a graduate from Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, IN with a BA in History. She is former organizer and member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 142 in Gary, Indiana. She is married her husband Rick, who is also a Teamster with Local 142 on the construction side, and has two children, Julia and John. She currently resides in Griffith, Indiana where she is a precinct committeeman for the Lake County Democratic Party. In her spare time she attends rallies for labor and social justice, spends time with her family including two dogs Sophie and Mayhem, and watches her favorite teams the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Cubs.