Interfaith Worker Justice

This is what religion looks like.



Laura Barrett, Executive Director

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 43

Before taking on the role of Executive Director at Interfaith Worker Justice, Laura served as Executive Director at Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) where she organized alongside local groups to fight corporate polluters and bureaucratic red tape. At Gamaliel, she worked on cutting-edge community organizing campaigns, including worker justice, affordable housing, education equity, voter engagement, and the civil rights of immigrants. Laura and her husband live in St. Louis and have two grown children. (see extended bio)

Cathy Junia, Director of Development

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 40

Born and raised in the Philippines, Cathy moved to the U.S. in 2003 and credits her interest in worker and immigrant issues to her own immigration experience. Cathy is responsible for developing IWJ's development strategy and managing the development department. Previously, Cathy served as the Individual Outreach Coordinator and as a member of the cross-departmental communications team. Before coming to IWJ, she worked as editor of the Northeast Phoenix Independent in Arizona. Outside of work, she enjoys "discovering" hole-in-a-wall eateries and new music.

Julian Medrano, Legal Director

773-728-8400, ext. 34

Julian runs Interfaith Worker Justice’s new wage theft clinic and is committed to providing all individuals access to the justice system. Originally from Argentina, Julian grew up in Toronto, Canada, and has spent the last five years in Chicago. After graduating from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and passing the Illinois Bar exam, Julian has spent time working for law firms and legal aid organizations in Chicago practicing civil rights and employment law. He has also spent time working in South East Asia as a legal consultant for the International Labour Organization. Julian also has degrees in Finance and International Business from Iowa State University.  When not working, he is an avid traveler and music lover.

Martha Ojeda, Senior National Field Organizer

Martha Ojeda worked for 20 years in the maquiladora industry (sweatshops), in the industrialization program of Mexico that became NAFTA. In April of 1994, Martha led the Sony Workers’ movement to improve their working conditions. The workers were beaten and brutally repressed by police forces. The Sony workers’ case was the first case brought against the government of Mexico under the Side Agreements for Labor Cooperation of NAFTA. Martha has a Law degree from The University of Saltillo, Coahuila and the Centre for University Studies in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico and joins IWJ from Fe y Justicia, a worker center based in Houston.

Ian Pajer-Rogers, Director of Communications

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 24

Ian manages Interfaith Worker Justice's communications department. Before joining the IWJ team, Ian was most recently the digital director for the campaign to elect Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for Mayor of Chicago and the digital communications strategist for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Ian was inspired to work on social justice from a young age after attending the progressive and inclusive First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

Anna Rubin, National Field Organizer

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 37

Anna joins IWJ from the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, where she spent a year organizing the Chicagoland Jewish community through her time in AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. At JCUA, Anna discovered a love of organizing and building power in faith communities. She is from Pittsburgh and majored in Religion at Princeton University, with a minor in Judaic Studies. When not at IWJ, Anna likes to listen to podcasts, stream TV, and spend time with friends.

Thom Shellabarger, Public Policy Associate

Phone: 202-525-3055

Formerly a Policy Advisor at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Thom spent more than 40 years advocating on diverse issues from housing and community development, to minimum wage, employment and civil rights with Congress and the Administration. Thom was a founding board member of IWJ. An organizer and advocate who can move an agenda, his colleagues describe Thom as someone who can get an economist to laugh, a politician to vote right, a bureaucrat to act, and a Bishop to issue a statement —tall tasks for anyone. Thom works in IWJ’s Washington, D.C. office.

Mayumi Swanson, Database Manager

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 17

Mayumi has overseen the development of IWJ’s check processing systems and the complete overhaul of its database system. She holds a B.A. in Public Relations from the Federal University of Goiás in her native Brazil. She and her husband, Christopher Swanson, are the parents of a son named Koichi.

María Torres, National Field Organizer

Phone: 773-728-8400 ext. 30

María G. Torres was born and raised in Cd. Juarez, Mexico; she moved to the United States at age 15 and since then, has been interested in social justice issues affecting the Latino community. She has personally witnessed the plight of undocumented immigrants and has been involved in immigrant rights advocacy. María joins IWJ from Community Renewal Society, where she organized congregations around issues of race and economic justice. She is a Northern Illinois University alumna and majored in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement. When she is not participating in or helping organize a protest, she likes to dance or binge watch suspense and drama TV shows and movies.

Ryan Wallace, Director of Organizing

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 27

Before joining IWJ, Ryan held positions in both the Organizing and Public Policy departments at Community Renewal Society, and prior to that he served in several Christian congregations in Chicago and Nashville. Ryan earned undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Spanish from Vanderbilt University. He also holds a Master of Theological Studies from McCormick Theological Seminary. Ryan lives with his wife and daughter in Rogers Park.

Jana Winch, Graphic Designer

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 10

Jana has been with IWJ since 1999. She is the creative force responsible for the design of most of IWJ's publications. Prior to IWJ, Jana worked for two design/advertising studios in downtown Chicago. She received her B.A. in Art from Luther College. When she is not working, or caring for her two young girls, Jana sleeps.

Allison Zidek, Accounting and HR Manager

Phone: 773-728-8400, ext. 22

Allison had a 16-year career as Accounting Manager and IT Director for a retail organization in Chicago before coming to IWJ. She has a BA in accounting and an MBA from DePaul University. Allison has responsibility for a variety of financial and human relations functions at IWJ including accounting, payroll and personnel benefits. Allison was born and raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago and continues to live in Skokie with her daughter. Outside of IWJ, she spends time volunteering on the school PTA and with the Girl Scouts.

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