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G.C.R.M.L.S. Instructors


Richard de Vries

Richard is a graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago, 1976, with a Bachelor of Science. He has taught with the Chicago Carpenters Apprentice & Training Program off and on for nearly 16 years. In 1994 he joined the staff of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago. He has led bargaining of various Teamster contracts in addition to the regular servicing of membership. On a number of occasions he has directed successful strikes for his local.

Richard regularly does training in a variety of subjects ranging from contract bargaining, servicing, strike conduct, and grievance and arbitration handling. He has been a regular contributor to several of Robert Schwartz’s books on labor relations.

Richard is Spanish English bilingual and has lived and worked in various parts of Latin America including Nicaragua, Bolivia and Mexico.

Over a number of years he has taught Contract Costing as a companion class to Contract Bargaining II. This has led to his supporting of participants from GCRMLS developing costing proposals for their home locals.  This year we will be adding a new class on Contract Drafting with Richard.

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Leslie Simmons is the Communications instructor for GCRMLS and has taught the course for the last decade.


She is currently a Field Representative and Political Coordinator for The Animation Guild, I.A.T.S.E. Local 839, a 6,000+ member national local representing creative professionals in the animation industry across the U.S. She has spent the last 15 years working for labor unions in communications and field work, including as the Communications and Field Services Director for the public-sector union CAPE and as the National Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing for the entertainment and media union SAG-AFTRA.

Leslie has also worked as a communications consultant on several union campaigns for various unions, including Change to Win/Teamsters Justice for Port Truck Drivers; California Faculty Association; IAFF Local 1014 and Teamsters Local 848. She is also a former executive board member of the International Labor Communications Association.

A Native Angeleno, Leslie spent 15 years as a news reporter for various print and online publications. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism with a minor in Political Science from Long Island University, Brooklyn and a Master's Degree in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University. Leslie is also one of the organizers of her staff union at The Animation Guild and is a proud member of OPEIU Local 537.

Leslie feels effective and planned communication is a priority for all unions - from locals to internationals - but often is an afterthought in the grand scheme of organizing campaigns, actions and more. By having a strong communications program, unions and locals can build the movement and create solidarity among their rank and file, leadership and communities. 

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Liam Russertt is a third-generation union member since he joined the Teamsters in 1994 shortly after his Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Army Military Intelligence division as part of Operation Desert Shield. He worked in several positions while at UPS where he first became a union activist, shop steward, and then a Business Agent representing the approximately 7,000 private sector members of Teamsters Local 804 based in New York City.

After over 20 years with the Teamsters, Liam moved on to become a Labor Relations Specialist with AFSCME’s largest local, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), Local 1000, which represents approximately 250,000 public sector members across New York State. He has been the staff director for the NYC and Long Island Regions and now continually negotiates and enforces multiple contracts for the members of Long Island.

After obtaining his associates degree from Queensborough Community College in 1995, Liam’s collegiate education was put on hold during his long work hours and activism in the Teamsters. Once he became a Business Agent, he started negotiating small contracts and realized he wanted to improve his skill by taking labor classes as encouraged by his mentors.

Since then, continuing education has gone hand in hand with his Union Representational duties. He has completed classes and/or certificate programs at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers, the National Labor College in MD, Cornell University Industrial Labor Relations School in NY, the CUNY Murphy Institute of Professional Studies, and the New Brookwood Labor College in MN. He has recently transferred all of that work to the CUNY School of Labor Relations and is close to completing his BA in Labor Relations.

In his almost 30 years of Union involvement, Liam has successfully negotiated over 40 contracts in both the private and public sectors while being the lead negotiator for all of them except his first two. Through this experience he has dealt with small and large employers, for profit and nonprofit employers, as well as local, county and state government employers. Member involvement is the key to success according to Liam who has participated in many contract action teams, organizing efforts, board member protests and even a few strikes, most notably the Teamsters strike in 1997.

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Joe Sexauer

Joe Sexauer is the Director of Membership Services and Organizing for the Racine Educators United (REU) in Wisconsin. Prior to that he was an attorney for The Previant Law Firm, S.C. where he helped represent several unions, as well as victims of wage theft.

He has participated in the labor movement since the late 1990s, including as a member then union representative for Teamsters 743 in Chicago and a union representative for meatpacking workers in southeast Wisconsin.

Joe has regularly conducted training with the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and teachers’ unions.

He holds a J.D. from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, a B.A. from the University of Michigan, and is a graduate of the DePaul Labor Leadership Certificate program.

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After receiving his undergraduate and paralegal degrees in New York, Dennis began his professional career in the late 1970s. Working as a paralegal, he drafted pension plans and related documents to help pension providers conform to the newly enacted Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (E.R.I.S.A.).

When he became bored in the world of legal writing, Dennis decided to pursue his passion to join the labor movement. As a working labor journalist, he has written hundreds of articles covering labor and social justice issues in the United States and abroad. Dennis has worked extensively with trade unionists and social justice activists in the U.S., Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Spain and Ireland.

As a union writer, Dennis was recruited to lead one of the largest Locals of the National Writers Union (NWU). He was later elected to and served two terms as the National Vice President of the NWU. In that position, he was responsible for bargaining contracts with The Nation Magazine, In These Times and an assortment of other publishing entities.

Recruited to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in June of 2002, Dennis worked as Health Care Director, Staff Director and Executive Director for SEIU Local 105 in Denver, Colorado. Joining the international staff of SEIU in January of 2009, Dennis has been training and leading collective bargaining efforts at SEIU for the last sixteen (16) years. He has extensive bargaining experience leading first contract fights and many other contract campaigns. Dennis has also participated in the largest private sector bargaining in the country during several contract campaigns covering 95,000 union members at Kaiser Permanente.

Although officially retired from SEIU in December of 2017, Dennis works under contract on a variety of collective bargaining campaigns. He also conducts training programs on representation issues, member organizing, worksite communication structures and every other aspect of building strong Local Unions.

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Naomi Perera has been practicing in the area of labor law with the Kelman Buescher Firm since graduating from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in May 2006. She was made shareholder in 2013. Ms. Perera received her BA from St. John's College in 2002. She is admitted to practice in Colorado and before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

She represents and advises a wide variety of both public and private sector unions across the Rocky Mountain west, with a focus on representation of public safety workers. In recent years, her practice has focused on collective bargaining in both the public and private sector assisting her union clients in dealing with increasingly aggressive bargaining by employers concerning pension, health and disability benefits. She also deals frequently with the more traditional aspects of labor law including work with the NLRB and advising clients on organizing campaigns and the NLRB petition process. 

She is a current board member and former board chair of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association and has been a speaker at the annual ABA Developing Labor Law Conference.  

Ms. Perera has two children (both girls, ages 4 and 6), a wonderful garden, and a battered hope that arc of the moral universe will at some point again bend towards justice.

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Ellen M. Kelman


Born in 1954 at Glen Cove, New York, Ms. Kelman attended Radcliffe College and graduated in 1976, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She then attended, concurrently, the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Law School, receiving Master of Public Policy and Juris Doctor degrees in 1980, both cum laude.

She is admitted to practice in Colorado and before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Ms. Kelman published a lengthy article on American labor law history in the St. John's Law Review in 1980 (which is now routinely attributed online to her brother, a law professor) and an article on welfare policy in Dissent in 1977.

In over 40 years of practice, Ms. Kelman has focused on employee benefits as well as more traditional aspects of labor law, and she has addressed various groups concerning issues arising under the National Labor Relations Act, ERISA, and equal employment opportunity laws, while assisting her union clients in dealing with increasingly aggressive bargaining by employers concerning pension, health and disability benefits.

Ms. Kelman has three (remarkably delightful) children, a collection of quilts that she has designed and sewed, two published Romance novels, and an abiding faith that (mostly) this, too, will pass.

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Jim Devine

James (Jim) Devine retired from the US Department of Labor, a s a Special Assistant to the Director of the Division of Enforcement and International Audits for the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS). He spent 28 years in the federal service enforcing the Labor Management  Act of 1959 (LMRDA). the federal statute that sets forth the requirement for labor union with respect to officer elections, trusteeships, fiduciary standard, and financial reporting requirements and record keeping.

Prior to becoming a Special Assistant, Jim served as the OLMS Chief of the Division of International union Audit in Washington, DC. He was also the District Director in Dallas, TX and served as a Senior Investigator in the Division of Enforcement in Washington, DC.

Jim started his career as a an investigator with OLMS in the Washington District Office. He was a member of the Nation Union of Labor Investigators and is a former instructor for new employees in the Compliance Audit Program (CAP). Additionally, he has conducted workshops at many union conferences and conventions. Prior to joining OLMS, Jim was a Probation and Parole Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia for 10 year.

Jim hold a Masters Degree in Criminology and Corrections from Sam Houston State University. Jim and his wife, Joan, just relocation to Phoenix.

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Norine Gutekanst served as the first Organizing Director of the Chicago Teachers Union from 2010 to 2020.  From 1987 to 2010 she was as an elementary teacher in Chicago Public Schools, served as a delegate (steward) for approximately 20 years in her schools, and was a leading member of CORE, the Caucus of Rank and File Members, when it won union leadership in 2010.  As Organizing Director, she worked to build a community-labor alliance, and worked with member organizers to strengthen the union in 500-600 worksites, on numerous union-wide campaigns, and through member committees. She played a leading role in CTU’s 2012, 2016 and 2019 strikes.  Norine is married, has three children and one grandson and is very happily retired.  Among her spare time pursuits are reading and working on community campaigns with educators, community and labor allies.  

Norine Gutekanst

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Jason Hudson


Government Affairs Director

Jason Hudson is currently the Idaho AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director and COPE (Committee on Political Education) Director. As the Government Affairs Director I serve as our full time lobbyists in the Idaho Legislature, as well as working with our Congressional delegation and their Idaho offices. I work with the Idaho Governor’s office, state administrative agencies, and the Idaho Workforce Development Council on policy matters related to worker rights, worker safety, and building good jobs in Idaho. I work with contractors, employers, industry associations, and trade groups to collaborate on issues that strengthen our industries and keep people working. I educate our members and affiliates about participation in government and the political process and develop and implement our electoral programs to engage our members to support pro-worker candidates for public office.


Hometown: Boise, ID


Educational Background: BA in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of Georgia, 2003. JD from the University of Colorado School of Law, 2006.

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Amanda Frickle

Montana AFL-CIO

Political Director 

Amanda Frickle was born and raised in Billings, MT as the daughter of a union pipefitter and a German immigrant. She was the first in her family to attend college and earned a B.A. in History and Political Economy from the College of Idaho and a Masters in Women's Studies from the University of Oxford. Amanda returned to Montana and began her career in political organizing, starting as a field organizer for Billings state legislative races and eventually going on to serve three sessions as the Chief of Staff for the Montana House Democrats and two cycles as the Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (MDLCC). Amanda is proud to have returned to her union roots as the Political Director of the MT AFL-CIO. During her time in this position, Amanda worked with affiliates to recruit a record number of union candidates for the Legislature and successfully defeat every union-busting and RTW bill that was considered by the 2023 Republican Supermajority Legislature and Republican Governor. Amanda lives in Helena with her husband, baby daughter, and foster dog. In her free time she enjoys backpacking, gardening, and board gaming.

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Jesse Sharkey served as the vice president and president of the 27,000 member Chicago Teachers Union from 2010 until 2022. During that time he led the union successfully through a series of difficult negotiations, strikes, legal attacks, budget crises, and internal disputes that threatened to divide the membership. In addition, Sharkey has extensive experience in managing leadership teams and overseeing union operations.


Sharkey has taught workshops on union leadership for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, and led panels for Labor Notes. Sharkey studied American History at Brown University and earned his MAT in 1997. He is an experienced classroom teacher who taught social studies in the Chicago Public Schools from 1998-2010, and is currently teaching and writing in Chicago. 

Jesse Sharkey

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Dr. Ericka Wills has worked on education programs, internal organizing, cross-border solidarity, and building worker power during labor disputes for a variety of workers and their unions, from steelworkers to teachers and miners to flight attendants. Dr. Wills has taught labor history with unions and state AFL-CIOs across the western United States for over a decade. She is currently on faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School for Workers.

Ericka Wills


Darla Stevens

Darla Stevens is a Business Representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 77 in Washington State.  As a Business Rep, she advocates for members in both public and private organizations through negotiations, grievance management, training, organizing, etc.

Darla holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration (finance and economics) from Eastern Washington University and a master’s degree in management studies from City University of Seattle.  She has performed labor relations work for over 15 years with experience on both sides of the table.  Her goal with each interaction is to continue developing a philosophy of partnership between labor and management.

With experience in accounting, organizational development, human resource management and labor relations, Darla has taught on a variety of topics throughout her career.  Her accounting experience began with auditing efforts during an initial public offering (IPO) for a hospitality company in the late 1990s.  Her efforts in organizational development focused on developing programs specifically for promoting workers to positions that offered better wages and benefits. 


When Darla is not actively trying to build her experience and education in labor law and practices, she is actively engaged with her daughters.


James Piotrowski

James has represented the labor movement since his 1994 graduation from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law. His whole career has been spent representing labor in the Rocky Mountains, having started in New Mexico before moving to Idaho in 1998.

James has represented countless local and international unions, union trust funds, and labor affiliations as well as individual workers. Through hundreds of grievances, arbitrations, lawsuits, and administrative hearings he has worked to bring every worker the dignity their work deserves. This has included fights to overturn anti-union laws in Idaho and across  the nation, as well as taking on the anti-union politics rampant in America.

When not actively engaged in the work of the labor movement, James is a proud father of two young activists, an avid reader, flyfisher, and woodworker, and deeply misses being the best goalkeeper in his local, over-50, indoor soccer league. Although life has slowed down some, James previously served as an officer in Trout Unlimited, co-founded and served as general counsel for the sadly-defunct Idaho Disability Defense and Education Fund, and was chosen to be the Democratic nominee to run for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District in 2016. In addition to practicing labor law, he also undertakes civil rights litigation on behalf of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and frequently informs the world that only the labor movement can save America from creeping fascism and the exploitative urges of billionaires and their lackeys.

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