The South Bay Labor Council-aligned think tank Working Partnerships USA named interim organization head Derecka Mehrens its new executive director this week.
Mehrens fills the role once held by the just-elected Santa Clara County District 2 Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who took unpaid leave from the position in April to campaign. Her appointment was first reported by the Mercury News.
A senior staffer since 2008, Mehrens has helped the nonprofit campaign for workers rights, including the measure that increased San Jose’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. Before joining the South Bay organization, she set statewide legislative priorities and as director of the California chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
Mehrens, who’s the daughter of a union construction worker and a community college teacher, has focused for more than a decade on encouraging civic engagement in low-income communities of color, push for policy changes like fiscal reform, encourage upward mobility and improve the health and safety of workers. Here’s a video of Mehrens talking about that work.
Working Partnerships credits her for forging alliances with key coalitions, including California Calls, the Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Mehrens continues to serve as a board member for the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and California Calls.
As a 501c3 tax-exempt organization that gets county funding to manage projects, Working Partnerships is forbidden from getting involved in political campaigns either for or against candidates. But it can get involved with political measures, and the organization is effectively attached to the SBLC, having historically shared offices, equipment, political goals and employees. The SBLC’s budget, based on dwindling union dues, is much smaller than the nonprofit’s, which reported a $1.9 million budget in 2011, according to its IRS Form 990 filings.