Armida Valles, Board President, was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She holds a B.A. in healthcare administration from Texas State University, where she also excelled as a collegiate track athlete. Currently, she holds a position as a business development manager in the managed care industry. Her professional career includes having held positions such as ombudsman for the Office of Injured Employee Counsel, and compliance analyst for a national carrier. She has utilized her public and corporate experience to improve managed care reform, including workers compensation. Armida’s family is from Mexico and her father was part of the first ever de facto Bracero Guest Worker Program. She believes in directly involving oneself with one’s local community and has held volunteer positions such as the director of the English as a Second Language Program and youth director here in Austin.
Victoria Gavito, Vice President, is an associate attorney at the labor and employment law firm, Glenda Pittman and Associates, where she works on a diverse set of cases supporting organized labor and individual employees. Prior to joining the progressive workers’ rights firm, Victoria served for four years as Legal Director at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. CDM is a U.S. nonprofit located in the heart of Mexico, because it is nearly impossible for Mexican migrant workers to fight the problems they face in the US workplace without a source of support for those battles in their home country. Victoria’s published article on CDM’s binational model, The Pursuit of Justice is Without Borders: Binational Strategies for Defending Migrants’ Rights, was published by Human Rights Briefing and can be found here. Before working with CDM, Victoria was a New Voices Fellow and Yale Initiative for Public Interest Law Grantee to work as Employment Rights Counsel for the Central Texas Immigrant Workers’ Right Center, the predecessor to PDL, then housed at the Equal Justice Center in Austin, Texas. Through this program, Victoria helped recovered over $550,000.00 in unpaid wages for low-wage immigrant workers in central Texas.
Hector Hernández, Treasurer, is originally from El Salvador, and has lived in Austin for the last 27 years. Hector came to the U.S. as a refugee after fleeing El Salvador’s civil war, and after many of his classmates were killed by the military regime. He has been actively involved in his church and social service organizations in Austin. Hector currently works as a nurse at Texas State Hospital. He came to Workers Defense Project to serve as a volunteer and to assist other immigrants in their educational endeavors.
Adriana Velasquez, Secretary, was born in raised in Austin. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants that grew up traveling back and forth to Mexico. She is scheduled to graduate High School from the Liberal Arts and Science Academy. Adriana first became involved in Workers Defense as a volunteer and graduate of its leadership development course. She has helped the organization carry out surveys with construction workers. She is a member of Con Mí Madre an organization of adolescent Latinas and their mothers working to improve educational access for Latinos. Adriana is committed to winning better working conditions for low-wage workers in Texas and is the product of her father who is a construction worker and her mother who is a domestic worker and also an active leader in Workers Defense Project.
Sylvia Martinez Velazquez was born in Ganjanto Mexico. She came to the U.S. years ago to create a new life for her family. Now married with 3 children, Sylvia is an active member of the Austin Community. She serves as a volunteer at her church, at Con mi Madre, a local support group for mothers to help their children with school, Book Spring, a local book donation agency, and WDP. At the Workers Defense Project Sylvia has spent 2 years volunteering, the too the Leadership Development course, began working with the Groupo de Crecimiento, and now serves on the Board.
Yvonne Montejano is a Researcher at the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and a recent graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Prior to her graduate studies, Yvonne engaged in community organizing and policy education on trade and migration issues with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker social justice organization. Yvonne’s family is from Mexico. Her parents migrated to the U.S. thanks to the efforts of Yvonne’s bracero grandfather. It is this background that shaped her interest and work on social justice issues. Yvonne has volunteered with numerous organizations, including the Workers Defense Project, Inmigrantes Latinos en Accion and the Texas Fair Trade Coalition. She enjoys reading, cycling, yoga, and spending time with her nieces.
Alma Craig currently serves as Human Resources Manager for a State of Texas agency. Her expertise is varied – recruiting and staffing, strategic planning, change management, tactical reorganizations and leave management – but her focus areas have been performance management, employee relations and conflict resolution. During her tenure at the University of Texas, where she studied human resource management, she served most recently as Director of Human Resources. As Alma’s career developed, she worked managing the affairs of a professor and Dean of the Indian Business School in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh; worked as Fiscal and HR Manager, HR Coordinator, and Senior HR Coordinator. Along the way, she earned a Mediation certification, also from UT Austin. These skills highly informed Alma’s work in the Office of the Ombudsman and the Conflict Resolution Center, as well as her service on the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) Advisory Board. Other relevant activities include serving on the governing board of the Hispanic Faculty/Staff Association at UT, as public relations officer and as founding editor of the organization’s newsletter. In addition to being a certified mediator, She also holds a PHR designation from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). She is a a member of SHRM as well as the local chapter, Austin Human Resources Management Association (AHRMA). My personal interests are in support of KLRU, KUT, Texas Humane Legislation Network, Austin Humane Society and ASPCA. Alma is also involved in advocacy initiatives surrounding LGBTQ and gender-equity issues, social justice and secular values. In her spare time she enjoys family, good reads (from horror to eastern philosophy), good friends, and bad dogs.
Jose “Chito” Vela III is a local attorney with his own law practice. Prior to beginning his own practice, Chito worked for the Texas Attorney General’s Office and in the Texas Legislature as general counsel to a state representative. He is originally from Laredo, Texas and has strong ties to the Texas/Mexico border. His views on immigration and labor were shaped by growing up miles from the border and traveling extensively in Mexico, where his family is from. Chito has two young children and enjoys being active in politics and community affairs. He is also a graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Armando Guerrero is originally from Mexico where he worked in business administration. At age 22 Armando came to work in the U.S. with the hopes of finding more secure economic opportunities. In the U.S. Armando has worked the last sixteen years in construction in six different states. Through Armando’s work experience he saw first hand the effect of exploitive working conditions in Texas and decided to become involved in Workers Defense Project to end the unjust treatment of construction workers. Armando is a worker member of WDP and played a fundamental role in helping the organization win the passage of its rest breaks ordinance that protects nearly 50,000 construction workers in Austin that previously did not have this right. Armando is also the proud father of two children.
Kevin Jewell volunteered with Casa Marianella, the Austin emergency housing shelter for recently-arrived immigrants where Workers Defense Project (WDP) was born, for over a decade before joining the WDP board. During that time he taught English as a Second Language and served two terms on the Casa Marianella board of directors. Kevin works by day as a freelance consultant, applying economic and quantitative analysis to questions in business, policy, and litigation. He previously worked for the policy research arm of Consumers Union (the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports). Much of Kevin’s work has focused on the well-being of low-income consumers, including examinations of the market for manufactured housing, the privatization of the British energy market, and the structure of retail bank overdraft fees. Kevin joined the WDP board because he believes the work of WDP makes a positive difference for everyone.