Emily E. LB. Twarog, PhD – Director, Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference

Emily E. LB. Twarog is currently an assistant professor of labor studies at the University of Illinois’ School of Labor and Employment Relations Labor Education Program. She earned her doctorate in American History at the University of Illinois at Chicago and her masters in labor studies at the University  of  Massachusetts  Amherst’s  Labor  Resource  and  Research  Center.  She  is  currently  at work on a book manuscript (“Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in 20th Century  America”) that  examines  the ways  in  which  housewives  in America  used  food  and protest as political tools to gain political influence both locally and nationally.

Emily is also the director of the Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference (The Polk School), sits on the Chicago Jobs with Justice Workers’ Rights Board and is involved in the United Association of Labor Educators, the Labor and Working Class History Association. She aspires to one day sit on the board of the Skokie Public Library.

Emily  spent  15  years  in  the  food  service  industry  as  a  line  cook,  drive thru  cashier,  assistant pastry  chef,  bread  baker,  and  server.  She  was  the president  of  GEO/UAW  Local  2322  at  the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a community organizer with the Campaign for Labor Rights and  Jobs  with  Justice,  and was  a  member  of  UNITE  HERE  Local  1  and a union steward  in  a downtown Chicago hotel where she worked as a server

Emily lives in Skokie with her husband who organizes workers, two young and energetic boys who are growing up on the picket line, one very fluffy dog, and a yellow Little Library on her front lawn. Her hobbies include knitting, cooking, gardening, reading, and race car driving.

Jennifer Camille Lee, Assistant Director, Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference

Jennifer Lee is the Outreach Coordinator for the Labor Education program and is this year’s Polk Coordinator. She assists with strengthening LEP’s relationships with labor unions across the state, and development and coordination of extension learning programs. Jennifer lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two children. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Studies from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Judy Ancel, Instructor

Judy Ancel has been the Director of Worker Education & Labor Studies labor education program at The University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1989.  In her work she provides education and training for union members and the general public on labor relations, labor history and contemporary problems of working people in a global economy. She has taught history and politics at the college level, has worked in factories, and has been a union activist and organizer in both the United Steelworkers and American Federation of Teachers. She holds a Masters in history from Hunter College of the City University of New York and a B.A. from Stanford University. In 2009 she won the United Association of Labor Education award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Labor Education.

She currently coordinates The Heartland Labor Forum, an award-winning weekly one-hour radio show about the workplace and economic issues on community radio in Kansas City KKFI-90.1FM.  In 2011 she won first prize from The International Labor Communications Association for a radio show, The Last Overhaul about the shutdown of the American Airlines maintenance base in Kansas City.

She is President of the Board of Directors of The Cross Border Network for Justice and Solidarity, a non-profit organization which develops ties and mutual understanding between working people in the Kansas City area and workers in Mexico and Central America. Its motto is: Supporting workers across borders and workers who cross borders. She also served from 2000-2007 as a Director and Executive Committee member of The Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, a San Antonio-based tri-national non-governmental organization.

Ancel is active in the United Association of Labor Education (UALE) and was also a founder and is Organizing Co-Chair of Kansas City Jobs with Justice.

In May, 2010 Ancel organized a delegation of labor educators, filmmakers, and students to investigate the strike of copper miners in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. The report, Crossing the Border to Cananea: High Stakes and Teachable Moments for North American Workers March, 2011 and a link to the video are available at Ancel has also traveled twice to Honduras on human rights delegations in 2009, 12 and 13 and speaks and writes about the 2009 coup and the surge in violations of worker and human rights since then.

In April and May 2011 Ancel and a team teacher in St. Louis were targeted by media thug Andrew Breitbart of who posted a series of highly edited videos misrepresenting a course they teach, accusing them of teaching violence, sabotage, communism and militancy. A hate campaign against them was spearheaded by the St. Louis Tea Party and the Missouri Lt. Governor. However, Ancel fought back and was vindicated by UMKC. She and others organized support from around the country to save her colleague’s teaching job and won his reinstatement. Ancel and her colleague were later honored for defending academic freedom by the American Association of University Professors at their annual meeting.

Leah Fried, Instructor

Leah Fried is a third generation labor organizer.  She is currently the Director of International Strategies and Co-Director of Education for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE. Leah has been an organizer with the UE since 1997.  During that time she has organized workplaces into the union via NLRB elections and recognition campaigns, served as lead negotiator in contract negotiations ranging from first contracts to agreements that have been in place for over 40 years, and together with many great leaders she has worked on grievance handling and strikes, presented arbitration cases and briefs, handled legal charges against employers, carried out training and education for UE leaders, designed and carried out media strategies, built community alliances and occupied a factory- twice.  You may have seen her in Michael Moore’s film, Capitalism:  A Love Story.  Leah is from Chicago and lives there with her organizer husband and two kids.

Helena Worthen, Director Emeritus

Helena Worthen wrote plays and novels and then started teaching English in California. Luckily, she had a good union to belong to, the California Federation of Teachers (AFT) and was soon more interested in organizing adjuncts than teaching essay-writing. She went back to graduate school (back in the days when it was nearly free), got a job as Education and Political Action Director for a Joint Board of UNITE, and then came to the Chicago Labor Education Program where Helen Elkiss hired her and told her, point blank, that she had to do POlk. This was an amazing privilege and the most fun anyone could have. She did this from 2000 through 2011, loving it all. Now she and her labor educator husband Joe Berry are retired back to the San Francisco Bay Area, with one exception: between August 2015 and February 2016 they are Ho Chi Minh City, Viet  Nam, teaching labor relations at a Trade Union -sponsored University, Ton Duc Thang. She is using role plays developed at Polk to show students here what labor under capitalism looks like.

To contact Helena you can email her:        Vietnam blog: