Staff

Our leadership. Our commitment.

Executive Director

National Staff

Dr. Alicia Renee Farris

Chief Operations Officer

Alicia has been with ROC since 2012 in various leadership capacities. She has worked in local and state government and in nonprofit administration for more than 25 years. She also has provided technical and operational assistance and executive coaching to more than 250 grassroots organizations throughout Michigan.

In her current position as the national Chief Operations Officer at ROC United and previously as State Director of ROC-MI (2013), Dr. Farris provides leadership to a movement for social and economic justice for restaurant workers.

For 12 years, she was an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, where she taught courses on ethics in human services, conflict management, school violence and social justice.
Alicia’s extensive community involvement includes current posts as board chair of Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan and Steering Committee Chair for the Michigan One Fair Wage Ballot Committee.
She has been honored to receive many local and national awards, including the 2020 Women’s Informal Network’s “Most Influential African American Women in Metropolitan Detroit “ Award”.; A. Phillip Randolph Institute’s Community Builders Award (2019), the Detroit City Council Distinguished Service Award (2013), a U.S. House of Representatives Proclamation (2010), the 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit “Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things” Award (2001), the National Congress of Black Political Women’s Shirley Chisholm Award (1997), numerous Spirit of Detroit Awards (1987-2010) and letters and commendations from the Points of Light Foundation, former Detroit Mayors Coleman A. Young and Dennis W. Archer, former Michigan Governor John Engler and the late Coretta Scott King.

Alicia holds a D.Min., an M.A. in education and a B.S. in human resource development. She completed the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program, Detroit Equity Action Lab Fellowship, Kingian Nonviolent Conflict Reconciliation certifications, The Midwest Academy Organizer’s Training Program, Ballot Initiatives Strategy Center’s Economy Cohort and the Midwest Labor Leadership Initiative, among other training.

Dr. Teofilo Reyes

Director of Programs and Research

Teófilo joined ROC United in September of 2011, while completing a doctorate in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago. Previously, Teófilo served as co-director at Labor Notes, director of Transnationals Information Exchange in North America, helped found the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty, and was a community organizer with the United Farm Workers.

Most recently, he was appointed as a lecturer and visiting scholar at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. At the University of Chicago, he was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and was appointed as a Fellow at the Institute for Mind and Biology.

He earned a dual undergraduate degree in Economics and Russian from the University of Michigan. Teófilo’s first job was at McDonald’s.

Imani D. Moody, M.B.A.

Chief Financial Officer

Imani received his B.A. in Economics and Spanish from Morehouse College and his M.B.A. from Columbia University with concentrations in Finance and Entrepreneurship.

He has 26 years of experience in financial technology, corporate finance, and entrepreneurship with such companies as Bloomberg Financial, American Express Bank, and Thompson Financial, and was instrumental in the founding of Bloomberg Integration Services and Primus Financial Technologies.

In 2010, Imani began to leverage his expertise to enhance educational and social justice outcomes in underserved communities. He became the Founding Director of Operations/ Chief Financial Officer for Newark Legacy Charter School, an innovative and successful community school, serving students and families in the highest need South Ward of Newark, NJ.

In honor of his father, John P. Moody Jr. (1931-2018), civil rights activist and original Freedom Rider , Mr. Moody is proud to direct his enthusiasm and expertise towards social justice and equity outcomes, locally and globally. In 2020, he became Chief Financial Officer of ROC United. He also holds Board of Directors positions with Healthright International and The Initiative for a Blue and Black Partnership, a newly formed foundation that brings together local leaders, communities, and progressive police departments to create meaningful and lasting change in our laws and institutional practices in order to stop the indiscriminate killing of black people in our society.

Samantha Cohen

Chief Development Officer

Samantha leads ROC United’s fundraising efforts. She is passionate about introducing people and foundations to social justice organizations that believe in transformative change and who are committed to innovation, investing in big ideas, and taking risks. Samantha’s purpose at ROC is to turn observers into outspoken advocates and committed donors.

Her interest in connecting donors to the causes they love started when she raised money for performing arts organizations, including at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canada’s National Ballet School, the Kentucky Opera, and as a nonprofit consultant. Samantha returned to front-line fundraising, first, at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she raised $7 million in individual support and helped close a $350 million 90th anniversary campaign. Then at the ACLU’s New York affiliate, where she grew the major gifts portfolio and initiated an $80 million comprehensive campaign. Since leaving the ACLU, Samantha has worked as the Director of Development at the Bronx Defenders. She has also led fundraising efforts at the Anti-Defamation League and the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

Samantha lives in New York City and can usually be found wandering through an art museum or participating in her political discussion group when she isn’t working. If she’s not there, look for her in one of the city’s amazing parks or with her nose in a great book.

Anthony Advincula

Director of Communications

Anthony joined ROC United in December 2018. The youngest son of a seamstress from the Philippines, he has focused on the dignity of work and the rights of workers to address economic reforms, job protections, and restructure national immigration policy.

Anthony attended Harvard University (Liberal Arts, advanced narrative nonfiction) in 2005, and Columbia University, where he was awarded a Charles H. Revson Fellowship, and received his master’s degree in public administration (MPA, social and urban policy) and journalism, in 2009.

Prior to ROC, Anthony was a journalist for 15 years, focusing on labor, government and politics, immigration, and race relations. He was a correspondent for The Associated Press, The Jersey Journal and New America Media, and a recipient of various journalism fellowships, including the New York Times Foreign Press Fellowship, American/German Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Fellowship and USC National Health Journalism Fellowship.

Alisha Volante

Senior Program Director

ROC programs and chapters exist as a tool to educate and empower workers to fight for the dignity and respect they deserve in their workplace. I am grateful to be in the position to support and strengthen the ROC staff across the nation so that they can meet the needs of our restaurant workers in order to build the necessary power to improve working class conditions economically, politically and socially, and dismantle race and gender divides in our industry.

Jordan Romanus

Digital Organizing Director

Jordan has been with ROC United since July 2013. He has been grateful for the privilege of managing a great team of digital organizers at ROC. Together, he and his team members have created and utilized organizing tech tools to build worker power.

Jordan finds his work at ROC vital; he wants to make sure restaurant workers are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Prior to ROC, he worked at many different organizing initiatives and random jobs, primarily in the Appalachian region.

Leslie Escobosa

Human Resources Deputy Director and Assistant to the President  & CEO

Leslie started working as a part-time office manager in November 2008, where she had the opportunity to meet many restaurant workers facing injustice in the restaurant industry. That experience inspired her to help workers improve their skills, including résumé building, in order to find the right employment and be successful in their chosen career.

Leslie was promoted to Career Coach, leading ROC United’s CHOW Institute’s training program. Presently, she is the Human Resources Deputy Director and Assistant to the President and CEO at ROC United.

In the spring of 2020, Leslie received an Associate of Arts in Human Services from Bronx Community College. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Baruch College in New York City.

Lisa Tran

Digital Organizer

Lisa is a Digital Organizer at ROC United. Digital organizing uses virtual tools to find people online who can potentially be engaged to become involved with our organization and moving engaged supporters to higher barrier actions that create impact. She loves her job because her ability to combine the powerful world of social media and organizing to make a difference in the restaurant industry – especially during the COVID era. Growing up in a household where her mother and step-father both worked in the restaurant industry and seeing first-hand how mistreated they were because of their immigrant status gave her the passion to fight for restaurant workers.

Steven Piasecki

Communications Coordinator

Steven helps manage day-to-day communications efforts across various departments of the organization, including social media, newsletter, website design and content development and brochures. As the current Communications Coordinator, his cross-functional role touches nearly all areas of ROC United, whether building a new microsite for a campaign or providing strategic communications support across chapters of the organization to advance ROC’s goals.

In 2017, Steven graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a B.A. in Media Studies.

Daniel Kota

Technology Solutions Administrator

Daniel’s role at ROC United is to manage existing technology infrastructure, provide support and training to staff on technology solutions, and consult leadership on future technology investments. Prior to coming to ROC, Daniel spent over 10 years teaching about technology, consulting with clients, and implementing solutions in the greater Detroit area.

He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Pure Mathematics from Eastern Michigan University.

Daniel is a tribal member of Canada’s first nations people; he has served on the board of the Michigan Indian Education Council, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to creating space to discuss challenges and barriers faced by Native American youth across Michigan.

He is excited and grateful for the opportunity ROC has provided him to utilize his skills in the technology sector to fight for improved working conditions for restaurant workers everywhere.

Marie L. Wiggins

National Director of Workforce Development and Special Projects

Marie is the creator of COLORS Hospitality Opportunities for Workers, known as the CHOW Institute, a ROC United program that provides advanced professional training in both front- and back-of-the-house restaurant skills at no cost to either employers or employees. Marie has held multiple roles in the organization over the past 15 years — from being a member, a worker owner at original COLORS Restaurant, training coordinator, serving as ROC-NY Director, National Member Benefits and Resource Coordinator, Deputy of HR, Finance and Operations.

In her previous professional career that she had for 12 years with the New York City Board of Education, Marie was active in three unions: Communication Workers Association, International Brotherhood of Teamsters – Local 237, and District Council 37. She also spent 10 years with Corporate America as a cash manager.

Taylor Stessney

Digital Organizer

Since entering the restaurant industry in 2012, Taylor has worked just about every front-of-the-house position — from being a host and busser to server and bartender. She joined ROC as a worker member, in 2015, during the City of Pittsburgh’s paid sick days campaign. Wanting to support her fellow workers of the restaurant industry know their rights in the workplace and make their stories heard, Taylor joined the ROC team as a digital organizer in March 2020.

Taylor received her bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University, majoring in sociology and her master’s degree in public administration from University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, majoring in urban affairs and planning. She is also the co-founder of Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid.

Alando Reeves

Southern Regional Director

Brenda Hill

ROC Action Organizer

Allen Lee

CHOW Lead Organizer/Case Manager

Geeta Seebe

Deputy Director of Finance and Operations

Margaret Benze

Grants Manager

Marie Wiggins

Director of Workforce Development/Special Projects

Larry Swetman

Digital Platforms and Content Manager

Yusra Razouki

Development Associate

Chapters Staff

Adam Barr

Community Organizer – ROC the Bay

Restaurant workers know how to move: we cover a lot of ground with minimum steps. Our hands stay full and our words are clear– and carefully chosen. Often the fastest, most committed, and most capable among us play roles like dishwasher, busser, barback, prep cook, and line cook– roles where hours are too long and pay is too low. It’s been my honor to work in cafeterias, cafes, restaurants, and events for 17 years. Now I get to pay forward the debt of gratitude that I owe my team for the lessons, the support, and the camaraderie that has been given to me–especially by our elite dishwasher, busser, barback, and cook colleagues. I’m in this fight with every restaurant worker until we all have the pay, stability, dignity, and opportunity that befit our great skill and our deep commitment.

Maria Moreno

Community Organizer and Program Coordinator – ROC the Bay
As an immigrant woman of color, I was able to advance in my social justice career and dreams to make a difference because of the various jobs I had the honor of doing in the restaurant industry over ten years. I joined ROC in 2017 because I felt it was my duty to give back and work on improving the community who raised me up and believed in me when I needed it my most. 

Jessie Harmon

Organizer – ROC CA

For twelve years Jessie worked in the service industry between her native Atlanta and Los Angeles as a professional bartender who after enduring the dichotomy between the good and unfortunate sides of restaurant culture, she became a worker about actions and solutions in order to build a new, constructive way forward for service industry professionals. Jessie has a strong passion for teaching and working with people after years behind the bar and began teaching at the CHOW Bar Academy as well as political coffee breaks and leadership development to bring workers together through positive, forward thinking.
Her experience within the industry pushed anger into action to fight for better working wages, dignity, education and quality of life for all working class people.

Outside of organizing work, Jessie positively enjoys live music, tacos, Parks & Rec, shaken daiquiris, Joshua Tree, meeting new people, travelling, social justice, comedy shows and devouring horror flicks with her partner.

Manuel Villanueva

Lead Organizer – ROC Los Angeles

Manuel is the Lead Organizer of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los
Angeles (ROC-LA). He leads comprehensive organizing campaigns to help workers win respect and dignity at their restaurants, including training and education for worker leaders, media work in English and Spanish, direct actions, and legal strategy. He has community organizing experience as a peer educator for LGBTQ Organizations, developing leaders in the Latino LGBTQ community in Long Beach, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and as a member organizer for ROC-LA prior to joining the staff team. He also has over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. 

Jorge Jimenez

ROC LA – Organizer

Pete Vargas

Organizing Director – ROC Michigan

Pete has worked at ROC Michigan since 2017. He has held several positions, including National High Road Director.

Currently, as ROC Michigan’s State Organizing Director, Pete oversees workforce development programs, and worker leadership programs to create upward mobility of women and people of color, as well as continued work with workers, allies and elected officials to help effectively change state and federal policy to protect workers in Michigan.

He is also the campaign manager for #ROCMIVOTE, a massive statewide campaign initiative to engage hundreds of thousands of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous/Latinx, People Of Color) and low propensity voters to vote early and safely from home during the coronavirus pandemic. As of October 2020, his campaign has already reached over 280,000 voters.

Brenda Jones

Organizer – ROC Michigan

Laura McIntyre

ROC MI – Organizer

Taylor Jackson

Organizer – ROC New York

My Journey with ROC began in 2018 as a CHOW student in ROC’s Queens NY location. I am a mom of one and a former restaurant worker, having worked various positions in the front and back of house, as well as a Delivery Driver. Now as an Organizer and CHOW Soft Skills Instructor I love advocating for Workers Rights and empowering our members to build equity in the Hospitality Industry.

Olando Charles

Chow Coordinator – ROC New York

Orlando is a social justice and equality advocate, with a passion for enriching and empowering individuals to reach their full potential. He started out as a front-of-the-house student and then became an NLN (National Leadership Network) member at ROC United. As an NLN member, he travelled and advocated for the rights of restaurant workers.

Orlando is on the board of three organizations: O’Brien Dennis Initiative for Male Survivors of Sexual Violence, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, an organization that helps LGBTQ immigrants, and The Men of Faith group in which he currently serves as President. Orlando is currently pursuing a certificate program at New York Theological Seminary in Theology. He is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Labor and Urban Studies at CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.

Orlando is also a dancer and a model. He is currently working on his first book about his life story as a Black Gay Man of Faith.

Rev. Prabhu Sigamani

Director – ROC New York

Prabhu joined ROC-NY in Jan 2010 as a case manager and, in 2014, transitioned to do policy work. In 2020 he became the director of the chapter; he comes with ten years of experience. Prabhu graduated BA Cum Laude from NYACK College, majoring in Theology. He continued his education at New York Theological Seminary and earned his Masters in Divinity. Prabhu received a certificate in Project Management from Cornell University.  And visions to make service and knowledge accessible to restaurant workers will lead to industry transformation by the members impacted by systemic greed and designed suppression. 

As an immigrant who worked his way up, he understands the struggles of people. Prabhu enjoys working with members and colleagues to help them identify their potential to outrival. Social change is a collaborative work that can be done only by mutual support and encouragement.

Prabhu is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Serves on  committee member on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations New York Conference of UCC. He serves on the Board of Directors for Worker Justice Project, a non-profit that works to improve day labors’ lives from various racial backgrounds.

He enjoys woodcarving during his free time and is excited to take a new hobby in clay sculpting. 

Samuel Jones

Director – ROC Pennsylvania

I have been part of the ROC staff for almost 6 years and I am the Director of ROC Pennsylvania. During my time at ROC we have been able to spearhead efforts to pass Paid Sick Days legislation in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Additionally, we have passed Wage Theft legislation and Fair Work Week legislation in Philadelphia and through a ballot initiative we established a permanent Office of Labor Law Enforcement to protect Philadelphia workers. Our members have participated in panels at the Netroots Convention in Philadelphia and we were invited to a Farm Aid concert outside of Pittsburgh where members established an informational booth to share news of ROC. I am probably most excited about our effort to connect reporters with a restaurant worker in Philadelphia who was featured in lengthy Time Magazine article highlighting the need for One Fair Wage and exposing sexual harassment and other deplorable conditions in the restaurant industry.

Osvaldo Valenzuela

ROC Chicago – Lead Organizer

Alison Baker

Organizer – ROC Chicago

I am an organizer here on staff with ROC Chicago. I was a restaurant worker for the past fifteen years. As a former restaurant worker I care deeply about helping workers receive better working conditions, free from harassment and wage theft, and better wages! I am also a musician and artist.

Calvin Okunoye

Organizer – ROC Philadelphia

Calvin Okunoye is the High Road Coordinator of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu North America where he studied French cuisine and gained an AS in the Culinary Arts. Calvin worked as a professional chef and musician 10+ years, working with many established chefs across French and northern Italian cuisines. In early 2012, he joined ROC-United, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the industry and career opportunities for restaurant workers through research, training and advocacy. Calvin was a part of the coalition passing an earned sick leave bill for more than 120k hospitality workers and creating stronger wage theft protections for all of Philadelphia’s workforce. In 2013, through a collaboration of restaurant owners, workers, government agencies, city officials, Calvin and ROC’s High Road staff launched R.A.I.S.E. (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment), an alternative restaurant association whose mission is to support small- and medium- size businesses to succeed on the High Road towards profitability. Calvin also serves as Co-Chair of Philadelphia Food Advisory Policy Council and Local Officer for The Newsguild of Greater Philadelphia.

Bobbi Ann Lisken

ROC Pittsburgh – Organizer

Sophie Miyoshi

Lead Organizer – ROC DC

With my father being a chef at a small Japanese restaurant my entire life, I was pretty much born into the restaurant industry. I started working at his restaurant when I was 15 and have continued to work at various restaurant establishments since then. The restaurant industry is my home and restaurant workers are my family. Despite the horrible treatment and low wages so many of us experience, I have always been in awe at the amount of care, love and innate sense of solidarity restaurant workers have for each other. I am so grateful to be building power with workers every day so that we can reshape the industry for the better. I originally came to ROC-DC as a member and had the privilege to join the organizing team in 2016. I am currently the Lead Organizer at ROC-DC.

Candace Cunningham

Organizer – ROC DC

Equipped with both education and field experience, Candace transitioned from early childhood education to Adult Literacy and proudly served as an Adult Literacy Instructor at the Washington Literacy Center from 2015-2017. While at WLC, Candace served as Volunteer Coordinator and also supported community engagement, student enrollment, intake processes, program structure, and external partnerships. Also during her time at WLC, Candace earned a certification in Adult Education from the University of the District of Columbia.

After a fulfilling two years at WLC, Candace, yet again, made a career shift. She is currently a Community Organizer and Workforce Development Coordinator at the Restaurant Opportunities Center- Washington, DC (ROC-DC). Each career step has brought Candace to her current position. At ROC-DC, she has been able to combine her desire to see DC become a more racially and educationally equitable city, while continuing to deepen her connection to the city through community organizing and empowerment.

Brandon Arnold

ROC NOLA – Organizer

Cynthia Gomez

ROC MN – Membership Coordinator

Eli Edleson-Stein

ROC MN – Lead Organizer

Mia Ghigliotti

ROC Boston – Organizer