After Hurricane Katrina, in 2006, Saket co-founded the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. Under his leadership, the organization won organizing and policy victories for both U.S.-born and immigrant workers engaged in the reconstruction of New Orleans. Saket led the organization to win precedent-setting National Labor Relations Board decisions protecting migrant whistleblowers on the front lines of the hospitality and seafood industries from retaliatory firings and blacklisting. In New Orleans, he also crafted campaigns to win pathways into the publicly funded construction industry for African American workers. Saket led a combined organizing and legal strategy to combat human trafficking, which resulted in a federal court awarding over $14 million in damages to migrant resilience workers rebuilding the Gulf Coast. In 2011, Saket founded the National Guestworker Alliance, an organization focused on defending the human rights and dignity of guestworkers in America.
Saket is recognized as a national expert on post-disaster economies, immigrant rights and the future of work. He was profiled as an “architect of the next labor movement” in USA Today, and he has testified before Congress and at the United Nations. Saket’s advocacy efforts have been featured on NPR, in Time, and on the front page of The New York Times. His writings have appeared in the L.A. Times, The Hill, The Nation, Latino Journal, Talking Points Memo and on CNN.com.
Saket co-authored And Injustice For All: Workers’ Lives In the Reconstruction, the most comprehensive report on race in the reconstruction of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, as well as Never Again: Lessons of the Gustav Evacuation, an account of the inequities in the response to Hurricane Gustav in 2009, which led to new state policies and new norms for evacuating the most vulnerable residents in preparation for disaster.
Saket began his career as a community organizer in Chicago at the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois. He is originally from New Delhi, India.
Vanessa is the Managing Director of Resilience Force, the national voice of the millions of people whose work, heart and expertise make sustainable recovery from disaster possible. For nearly a decade, Vanessa has supported organizations that build power for working people in the fight for a more equitable and just economy. Vanessa lives in Chicago with her partner and two cats, CJ and Lane. Previously, she has worked at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United for Respect, and UltraViolet, among others.
With significant experience in political campaigns and government relations, LaTanja Silvester is a veteran activist who has dedicated her career to defending the rights and improving the lives of working people. Ms. Silvester spent the last 10 years leading the efforts for organized workers at the Louisiana affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 21 LA, serving as President from 2013-2019. In the role as President, Silvester has been a constant voice and force for the needs of Louisiana’s working families everywhere from City Halls to the U.S. Congress. LaTanja has led campaigns for voting rights, equal pay for women, equitable education, and fair wages. Ms. Silvester has advanced legislation supporting access to healthcare, living wages and economic empowerment, and has worked to broaden and deepen opportunities for local and minority owned businesses across Louisiana.
Daniel is a research associate at the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), also known as Resilience Force. Nearly 15 years ago, Daniel arrived in New Orleans under exploitative conditions as a H-2B guestworker to support recovery and rapid repair efforts after Hurricane Katrina. He began organizing with other guestworkers in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and helped found the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), a national membership organization that fights for dignified work and just migration. As a Research Associate at NGA, he works to improve workplace conditions for migrant workers by investigating questions of workplace standards enforcement. Daniel is a recognized expert on U.S. guestworker programs, consults regularly with U.S. policymakers and has testified before Congress on effective enforcement models within the U.S. Department of Labor. Daniel is from Peru and is the proud father of two teenagers.
Fernanda Herrera Spieler
Equal Justice Works Fellow Sponsored by the Text-to-Give Campaign
Fernanda arrived to the United States from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico when she was two years old and grew up undocumented, eventually acquiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. As a college student in Birmingham, Alabama she became involved in immigrant rights advocacy efforts, travelling to Washington, D.C. to lobby for DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Childhood Arrivals (DAPA). She served on various panels about her experience after the passage of HB-56, the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law. After graduating from college, Fernanda attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law and continued her fight for immigrant rights, working at various non-profit organizations aiding clients with T-Visa, U-Visa, Asylum, and Cancellation of Removal petitions to secure their futures in the United States away from dangerous conditions in their home countries. Additionally, Fernanda continued her individual advocacy efforts while in law school. She published Op-Ed pieces, was featured in podcasts, and attended the Supreme Court hearing on the legality of DACA, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of Univ. of California. She also helped run the campaign that secured her mother’s prompt release from the Irwin Detention Center when her mother was arrested and flagged for ICE following a minor traffic stop during Fernanda’s first year of law school. Ferrnanda graduated law school in 2021 and lives with her spouse in Nashville, TN.
William Craig Fugate
Special Advisor to Resilience Force
W. Craig Fugate served as President Barack Obama’s FEMA Administrator from May 2009 to January 2017. Previously, he served as Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Emergency Management Director from 2001-2009. Fugate led FEMA through multiple record-breaking disaster years and oversaw the Federal Government’s response to major events such as the Joplin and Moore Tornadoes, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Matthew, and the 2016 Louisiana flooding. Fugate set a clear and compelling vision, mission, and priorities for FEMA and relentlessly drove the Agency to achieve better outcomes for survivors. FEMA’s effectiveness in dealing with more than 500 Presidentially-declared major disasters and emergencies under Fugate’s leadership restored the faith of the American people in the Federal Government’s ability to respond to disasters. Prior to his tenure at FEMA, Fugate was widely praised for his management, under Governor Jeb Bush, of the devastating effects of the 2004 and 2005 Florida hurricane seasons (Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, and Wilma).
Special Advisor to Resilience Force
Kerry O’Brien has been working with Resilience Force since its founding on legal and policy matters. She has developed and litigated cases on behalf of resilience workers as co-counsel including Cabre v. Cotton in Florida regarding unpaid wages and overtime and immigration-related retaliation and Delegado v. SERVPRO in Michigan regarding a COVID-outbreak amongst resilience workers responding to dam breaks in Michigan. In addition, she was the principal author of the policy section of Resilience Force’s A People’s Framework for Disaster Response report. Kerry was Senior Counsel to Solicitor Patricia M. Smith at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration, and has also been a Campaign Coordinator for Service Employees International Union, Director of Federal Programs at Equal Justice Works, Director of Services at CASA, and a co-founder of the D.C. Employment Justice Center, for which she was, with her co-founder, a recipient of an Echoing Green fellowship. She was named Employment Lawyer of the Year by the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and Georgetown Law and she began her career as the Crowell & Moring Equal Justice Works Fellow at Bread for the City in Washington, D.C.