Service Employees International Union
|Founded||1921 as BSEIU|
|Country||United States, Canada and Puerto Rico|
|Affiliation||Change to Win Federation, and CLC|
|Key people||Mary Kay Henry, International President|
|Office location||Washington, D.C.|
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a labor union representing about 1.9 million workers in over 100 occupations in the United States (including Puerto Rico), and Canada. SEIU is focused on organizing workers in three sectors: health care (over half of members work in the health care field), including hospital, home care and nursing home workers; public services (local and state government employees); and property services (including janitors, security officers and food service workers).
SEIU is the fastest growing labor union in the United States and has over 150 local branches. It is affiliated with the Change to Win Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress. SEIU is based in Washington, D.C., and has several internal divisions which include: Communications, Government Affairs, New Media, Organizing, Political, Global Strength, Pension/Benefits, Community Strength, Research, and Legal.
The union states that its top priorities are to stand up for working families to help bring economic relief to millions across the country, fix the nation's "broken health care system," and fight to guarantee workers' rights on the job. SEIU is sometimes referred to as the "purple ocean" at political events because of the union's recognizable purple shirts. The union is also known for its Justice for Janitors [clarification needed] program and strong support for Democratic candidates. It spent $28 million supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, making it the "organization that spent the most to help Barack Obama get elected president." As of 2014, SEIU is successfully leading the charge against aggressive and negative practices of the fast-food restaurant industry.
- 1 History
- 2 Presidents of SEIU
- 3 SEIU International Leadership
- 4 Recent organizing
- 5 Notable locals
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 Controversy
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The SEIU was founded in 1921 in Chicago as the Building Services Employees Union (BSEU); its first members were janitors, elevator operators, and window washers. Membership increased significantly with a 1934 strike in New York City's Garment District. Growth from organizing new members, and affiliating with other unions, it includes more than 225,000 janitors in at least 29 cities in the United States and at least four cities in Canada, and mergers with other unions resulted in a membership working in industries well beyond BSEIU's initial boundaries. In 1968 it renamed itself Service Employees International Union. In 1980 it absorbed the International Jewelry Workers Union, later the Drug, Hospital, and Health Care Employees Union (Local 1199), and the Health & Human Services Workers. [clarification needed]
In 1995, SEIU President John Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO, the confederation of labor unions in the United States. After Sweeney's departure, former social worker Andrew Stern was elected president of SEIU. In the first ten years of Stern's administration, the union's membership grew rapidly, making SEIU the largest union in the AFL-CIO by 2000.
In 2003, SEIU was a founding member of the New Unity Partnership, an organization of unions that pushed for reforms[specify] at the national level, and a greater commitment to organizing unorganized workers into unions. In 2005, SEIU was a founding member of the Change to Win Coalition, which furthered the reformist agenda, criticizing the AFL-CIO for focusing its attention on electoral politics, instead of taking sufficient action to encourage organizing in the face of decreasing union membership.
In June 2004, SEIU launched a non-union-member affiliate group called Purple Ocean to stand with workers in the fight for economic justice.
On the eve of the 2005 AFL-CIO convention, SEIU, along with its Change to Win partners, the Teamsters union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, announced that it was disaffiliating from the AFL-CIO after the 50-year-old labor federation declined to pass the Coalition's suggested reforms. The Change to Win Federation held its founding convention in September 2005, where SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger was announced as the organizations' Chair. As with other Change to Win unions, many individual SEIU locals remain affiliated to regional AFL-CIO bodies through "solidarity charters."
Presidents of SEIU
- William Quesse (1921–1927)
- Oscar Nelson (1927)
- Jerry Horan (1927–1937)
- George Scalise (1937–1940)
- William McFetridge (1940–1960)
- David Sullivan (1960–1971)
- George Hardy (1971–1980)
- John Sweeney (1980–1995, former president of the AFL-CIO)
- Richard Cordtz (1995–1996)
- Andy Stern (1996–2010)
- Mary Kay Henry (2010-)
SEIU International Leadership
- President - Mary Kay Henry
- Secretary-Treasurer - Eliseo Medina
- Executive Vice President - Tom Woodruff
- Executive Vice President - Gerry Hudson
- Executive Vice President - Dave Regan (SEIU)
- Executive Vice President - Mitch Ackerman
- Executive Vice President - Kirk Adams (SEIU)
- Executive Vice President - Eileen Kirlin
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (August 2010)|
In Missouri, 12,000 home care attendants in the Consumer Directed Services program voted to unite in the Missouri Home Care Union, a joint local of AFSCME and SEIU. In Wisconsin, 5,500 home care providers voted 'yes' to unite in SEIU. In a landslide vote, part-time adjunct faculty members in the Maine Community College System formed a union with the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989 of SEIU. And in New York, 30,000 SEIU Local 32BJ apartment building workers—doormen, security guards, bellhops, and others—averted a strike and won a new contract.
Over the course of the past several years, the union has made a concerted effort to expand outside of its traditional base on the coasts.
Notable health care organizing successes in 2009 include more than 800 healthcare workers at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, the largest medical center in Boston's Caritas Christi Health Care chain, voting to unite together with thousands of health care workers in 1199SEIU. And in July 2009, 13,000 home care attendants in the state's consumer directed home care program voted to join the Missouri Home Care Union, a statewide union of home care attendants.
In 2009, the union launched a nationwide campaign against Sodexo to improve wage and job standards. Clean Up Sodexo serves as the online voice of the workers at Sodexo, many of whom make near poverty-level wages working as food service workers at universities around the country.
Since 2004, the union has seen success organizing workers in Texas, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona in particular. Over 5,000 janitors organized with SEIU in Houston, Texas in 2005, which was especially significant due to the size of the campaign and its location in an area with low union density. In Florida, a high-profile strike at the University of Miami which lasted nine weeks and included a hunger strike, ended with the union winning representation of 425 janitors on campus. This victory was shortly followed by another 600 workers at North Shore Medical Center, also in Miami, voting to join the SEIU in early 2006.
One of the major potential areas of union growth in the United States is organizing workers usually hitherto considered "unorganizable," especially low-wage service sector workers, in what is often called "social movement organizing." Many of these service sector workers are minorities, immigrants, and women.
As an example of this, in 2006 and 2007 Oregon's SEIU Local 503, OPEU (Oregon Public Employees Union) built on its earlier successes in organizing state-paid "long-term care providers", including homecare workers (in-home care providers) and family-child-care providers, by organizing "commercial" adult foster home providers who receive state funding. Commercial providers are licensed to operate foster homes with up to five senior or disabled residents. By forming a union, providers would for the first time be able to collectively bargain a contract with the state over service fees, benefits, regulations, and respect.
In the spring of 2007 the state Employment Relations Board (ERB) verified that a significant majority of the commercial providers across Oregon had signed authorization cards supporting forming a union, and Governor Ted Kulongoski signed an executive order recognizing commercial adult foster care providers as a union, and opening the path to contract bargaining. Following the governor's executive order, the Oregon legislature passed a bill, on June 28, 2007, codifying the executive order and making the adult foster care providers state employees solely for the purpose of collective bargaining. After successfully organizing commercial providers, SEIU 503 continued the campaign and organized "relative" adult foster home providers, who are licensed and paid by the state to provide care for senior or disabled family members.
In November 2007 the Oregon ERB verified that a significant majority of relative providers had signed authorization cards and Governor Kulongoski signed Executive Order No. 07-20 recognizing them as part of the union. With the success of the two stages of this organizing campaign, adult foster care providers were able to form a union for the first time in the United States. In August 2008, the new adult foster care providers in SEIU Local 503 and the State of Oregon completed negotiations on the first adult foster care provider union contract in the US.
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In 2012, news sources reported that SEIU was paying local and non-local workers to campaign against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for $11 an hour.
SEIU has played a role in all the fast food strikes from 2012- 2014 and has contributed more than $15 million to workers' centers and community organizations to organize them. SEIU's motto for the campaign is "$15 and a union," reflecting the call to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and the unionization of fast food workers. SEIU has recently begun supporting lawsuits filed by fast food workers to the National Labor Relations Board, calling for McDonald’s to be named a joint employer of the restaurants run by its franchisees, a move which would make it substantially easier for SEIU to unionize McDonald’s employees.
More and more SEIU Locals have embraced free social networking and microblogging service Twitter to help get out their message online in 2009 and 2010. The International maintains a Locals Twitter list, which pulls in tweets from every SEIU Local on Twitter.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
SEIU's largest local union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East has a membership of roughly 300,000 and claims to be the largest local union in the world. It represents workers in various parts of New York state, chiefly in New York City, Syracuse, and Buffalo, with additional members located in and around the Canton-Potsdam and Plattsburgh areas of northern New York, as well as Maryland, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Massachusetts.
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (UHW West) is a large (150,000 member) local union based in Oakland, California. In August 2008, the international union announced plans for a hearing to consider trusteeing UHW West. On January 27, 2009, SEIU placed UHW West under trusteeship and dismissed 70 of the local's executives, including president Sal Rosselli. Rosselli and other ousted leaders reformed under the name National Union of Healthcare Workers and pushed for UHW West members at 60 facilities to vote to decertify SEIU. As of 2012, NUHW only represents 6 former SEIU-UHW facilities.
In early 2013, NUHW affiliated with the California Nurses Association. Also, in early 2013, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered that the results of the 2010 Kaiser Permanente union election (a vote by nearly 45,000 Kaiser-Permanente employees choosing between NUHW and SEIU-UHW) be over-turned based on evidence of collusion between SEIU-UHW and the employer. The new election will take place in April 2013.
In January 2013, SEIU Local 6434 President Tyrone Freeman was convicted on 14 counts of embezzlement and other federal charges. Freeman led the local which was at the heart of the internal conflict that led to the Trusteeship of SEIU-UHW by former SEIU President Andy Stern. At issue was the push by Stern to move thousands of Home Health workers from UHW to Freeman's local. When local officials objected to Stern's move, Stern ousted the local leadership of UHW, and appointed Dave Regan as President of UHW. The Home Health workers were then moved to Freeman's local.
Freeman is scheduled to be sentenced in April 2013, and could face up to 180 years in prison.
SEIU Local 32BJ
SEIU 32BJ is a politically outspoken building services local based in New York. 32BJ represents 120,000 property service workers, and is part of SEIU Justice for Janitors, Stand for Security and Multi Service Workers campaigns.
Recently, SEIU 32BJ's Thomas Shortman Training Fund was awarded a $2.8 million grant by the Department of Labor, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aiming to create jobs in expanding green industries over the next two years. The program (1,000 Green Supers) will help train 2,200 NYC building superintendents in energy efficiency.
SEIU Local 1000
SEIU Local 1000 (Union of California State Workers) is affiliated with the California State Employees Association (CSEA) with one other union, the California State University Employees Union, SEIU Local 2579, a non-union affiliate of managers, confidential and supervisory employees who are excluded from collective bargaining, and an affiliate of retired state employees. Yvonne Walker has been president since 2008. It is the exclusive legal representative for 95,000 California state employees. Local 1000 deals with issues of concern to current rank-and-file state employees, such as salaries, benefits, working conditions and contract negotiations. Local 1000 has nine bargaining units and represents a variety of state workers, including DMV employees, prison support staff (excluding uniformed guards), information technology workers, nurses and administrative staff.
Negotiations for a new contract between the state and Local 1000 bogged down in 2005-6. On June 12, union members voted to authorize a strike in the event negotiations failed. This would have been the first strike by state employees in California history. However, a deal was reached on June 17. The new contract was approved by union members in July, and signed into law on September 6.
Local 1000 played a prominent role in opposing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's response to the budget crisis of 2008-9, much of which focused on cutting public services such as home care and education in order to reduce the deficit.
In 2012, Local 1000 won many victories while representing members in grievances, arbitrations, unfair practice charges and other proceedings. This included passing Proposition 30 to raise revenue for schools and public safety, and defeating Proposition 32.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana
SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana was founded in 2008, when members of three SEIU locals (Local 4, Local 20, Local 880) voted to join and create a single entity across the two states. It has since expanded to include Kansas and Missouri. The organization has over 85,000 members SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana-Missouri-Kansas.
SEIU Local 87
One of the first SEIU locals was Local 87, a local that can trace its origins back to the 1920s, when it was known as Local 9 of the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEIU). Labor legend George Hardy got his start organizing janitors with Local 9, where he helped quickly grow its membership; improving wages, benefits and working conditions for the janitors who worked in San Francisco's office buildings. Under future leaders such as Herman Eimers, Rex Kennedy, and Robert Parr, members of Local 87 continued to enjoy improved wages, benefits and working conditions. These victories were all won with very few strikes. Unfortunately during the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st Century, workloads in many of San Francisco's high-rise office buildings drastically increased along with a deterioration of working conditions.
SEIU Local 1 Canada
The largest local in Canada is SEIU Local 1 Canada. It represents over 50,000 health care and community services workers in Ontario and British Columbia. Its members work in hospitals, home care, nursing and retirement homes and community services.
In popular culture
On the popular long-running television show ER, the service employee Jerry Markovic (played by Abraham Benrubi) often wears an SEIU T-shirt, reflecting SEIU representation of hospital service workers in the United States (approximately 250,000).
SEIU's Popular Media Organizing Program is an initiative to connect popular culture and the labor movement's platform with support from the creative arts. In 2008, SEIU partnered with Manifest Hope: DC, MoveOn PAC and Obey Giant to launch a nationwide online contest to gather the best artwork celebrating the grassroots campaign that helped elect Barack Obama as president. The winning artwork was displayed to DC area residents and millions of people expected to gather in Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration. SEIU has also produced a "Social Justice" calendar featuring the work of Manifest Hope artists in 2009 and 2010.
The non-profit 501c3 Bread and Roses program started by 1199SEIU was founded in 1978 as a cultural resource for union members and students in New York who, for the most part, are not reached by traditional arts institutions and programs. Since that time, the Bread and Roses program has spread widely beyond the New York City area. In 2006, “Unseen America”—a book of photography taken by 1199SEIU members and other workers—was published, with New York’s Guggenheim Museum hosting a party to celebrate Bread and Roses’ “Unseen America” project, which was one of dozens of events held in cities around the U.S.
Since Sliced Bread
Since Sliced Bread was an online contest sponsored by SEIU. People were asked to submit their best new economic idea to help working families. Of the thousands of ideas that were submitted, 21 were chosen as finalists. Of these 21, a winner was selected to receive a grand prize of $100,000 and SEIU's commitment to work to make the idea a reality. The two runners-up won $50,000. All 21 finalist ideas were featured in a book published in 2006.
The 21 ideas selected for public voting were generally creative and progressive but had often been stated before (e.g., increasing taxes to fund Social Security or providing health care to the uninsured).
|This section relies on references to primary sources. (June 2012)|
|Some or all of this section's listed sources may not be reliable. (June 2012)|
In April 2010, The National Labor Relations Board regional office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina issued a federal complaint against a local SEIU chapter for maintaining an “annual objection” policy designed to force nursing home workers into full union dues payments against their will.
In December 2010, SEIU agreed in a settlement to stop trying to prevent workers who do not support its activities from coming to work at Morehouse College dining venues operated by Sodexo. The settlement also forces SEIU to post notice that it will not "restrain or coerce" Sodexo employees.
Sodexo USA filed a civil lawsuit against SEIU under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act on March 17, 2011. In the complaint, Sodexo alleges that SEIU engaged in blackmail, vandalism, trespassing, harassment, and lobbying law violations, referring to the "Clean Up Sodexo" campaign as "old-fashioned, strongarm tactics" and SEIU behavior as "egregious" and "illegal." During the trial, it was revealed that the SEIU had written and distributed a manual to its staff detailing how “outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.” Tactics recommended include references to blackmail and extortion, accusations of racism and sexism, targeting the homes and neighborhoods of business leaders for demonstrations, and also explicitly stated that at times it is necessary to "disobey the law." Following the court discovery of this document, a settlement was reached where Sodexo withdrew the lawsuit and SEIU terminated its public campaign focused on Sodexo.
During a drive to organize 10,000 healthcare workers in November 2009, SEIU was accused of ballot rigging and using intimidation to persuade workers to vote in SEIU instead of the National Union of Healthcare Workers as their representative.
Aramark employees from Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, Morgan State University and Coppin State University, as well as students from all four universities, participated in a protest alleging SEIU was acting to prevent a fair employee representation by the union of their choice.
The SEIU's tactics were featured in a book written by an Indiana based businessman which chronicles his 3 year battle to thwart the union's organizing attempts .
Architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign, Steven Lerner was allegedly forced to resign from the union in 2011 after advocating more organizing efforts be placed against wall street and bank power in the United States with popular direct action.
Local chapters of SEIU have expressed discontent with the landmark Citizens United decision. Despite this disposition, they have exercised the rights that the decision gave them, and have used funds for campaigning purposes—counterbalancing corporate spending in elections. However, because of the recent Supreme Court decision Knox v. SEIU, union spending and fundraising power has been diminished relative to corporate power.
The union has been criticized for instituting top-down structures without approval of worker members.
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- "State Government". Statesman Journal (Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley: Gannett).[dead link]
- "Adult foster care workers receive raise". Portland Business Journal (Portland, Oregon: American City Business Journals). August 6, 2008. Retrieved 2009-08-12. "Adult foster home care providers reached a one-year agreement with the State of Oregon after seven months of bargaining, becoming the first such workers in the U.S. to win a union contract. The program aims to support the home-based caregiving -- a lower-cost alternative to institutional care that has lost many providers in recent years due to low rates and tough working conditions. The settlement covers about 2,000 professional caregivers who serve up to five clients, and another 1,500 individuals who care for relatives in the Medicaid-funded adult foster care program. The workers are represented by Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union."
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- Fink, Leon, and Brian Greenberg. Upheaval in the Quiet Zone: 1199/SEIU and the Politics of Healthcare Unionism (2nd ed. 2009)
- Fletcher, Bill, and Fernando Gapasin. Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (2009)
- Lopez, Steven Henry. Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor Movement (2004), focus on SEIU in Pittsburgh
- Plumer, Bradford. "Labor's Love Lost," New Republic, April 23, 2008, Vol. 238, Issue 7 online in Academic Search Premier, focus on conflict between Stern and Rosselli
- Building Service Employees' International Union, Local 6 Records, 1937-1955. .14 cubic foot.
- Service Employees International Union, Local 120 Records. 1924-1989. 3.47 cubic feet (6 boxes).
- SEIU International
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- Change to Win Federation
- Nurse Alliance
- SEIU Collections at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University