The labor movement, women's movement, and civil rights movement fought hard to establish basic rights. But those rights only have meaning if workers know about them and can enforce them. At the Heartland Center, our legal team strives to do just that
Gina Chiala, Attorney at Law
Gina Chiala is the Executive Director and Staff Attorney for the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom. Gina has years of experience with both social justice campaigns and public interest litigation. Motivated by a strong belief that one’s income should not determine the quality of one’s legal representation, Gina began her legal career as a public defender. At the public defender’s office, Gina vigorously defended the rights of her clients and gained valuable trial experience. Gina next joined Slough Connealy Irwin & Madden, Kansas City’s oldest and best known public interest law firm. There, Gina represented low-income clients in cases against abusive credit card companies, pay day lenders, finance companies, car dealerships, and debt buyers. Among the cases she tried at Slough Connealy, Gina won a historic victory against Portfolio Recovery Associates, one of the largest debt buyers in the country.
Since co-founding the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, Gina has conducted numerous legal rights workshops for nonprofit organizations that work with underpaid workers, she helped establish a tenant's rights clinic at the Jackson County courthouse, and she is partnering with lawyers in the community to hold businesses accountable for gross workplace and consumer abuse.
In addition to practicing law, Gina has launched a leadership development program for low-wage workers who are advocating for higher wages and better working conditions. Gina has also participated heavily in campaigns to raise the minimum wage, cap Missouri’s pay day lending rates, and improve wages and working conditions for fast-food and other low-wage workers.
Gina obtained her law degree from the University of Missouri Kansas City in 2006, where she graduated cum laude. She received recognition as a National Member of the Order of Barristers. She also received the Ralph S. Latshaw Award for outstanding studies in criminal law, the National Moot Court Team Competition Award, and awards for excellence in the areas of civil rights, torts, legal writing and constitutional law.
Gina sits on the boards of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and Neighborhoods of Hope Community Housing.
The UMKC Alumni Association awarded Gina with the Pro Bono Public Service Award of 2018.
The Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City awarded Gina and the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom with the 2017 Public Service award.
The National Consumer Law Center awarded Gina with the Rising Star Award for making a "major contribution to consumer law".
In 2016 Missouri Lawyer's Weekly awarded Gina as the "Plaintiff's Attorney with the largest reported verdicts judgments".
Amanda Myers, Community Outreach Coordinator and Director of Legal Services
Amanda has been working in the legal field for eight years. With a Master of Science in Criminal Justice, a minor in Sociology, and many years of experience in case investigation, trial preparation, and legal research, Amanda brings tremendous talent to the Heartland Center. Amanda’s investigative work has unearthed patterns of abuse by debt collectors and finance companies and contributed to many favorable outcomes for low-wage workers, including a historic jury verdict against Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC.
Amanda has many years of experience supporting social justice movements as well. Amanda volunteered countless hours supporting Kansas City's Fight for Fifteen and now assists with leadership development courses, community outreach, and event coordination.
What makes Amanda particularly well-suited for our work is her experience growing up in a struggling, low-wage family, her ability to identify with low-wage workers, and her strong commitment to social justice.