Service Employees International Union

Service Employees International Union

Infobox Union
name= Service Employees International Union
country= United States & Canada
affiliation= Change to Win Federation, CLC
members= 2 Million [ What Is SEIU? | ] ]

founded= 1921
office= Washington, D.C.
people= Andy Stern, International President
website= [] , []

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a labor union representing more than 2 million workers in over 100 occupations in the United States and Canada. The main divisions are health care (around 50% of the union's membership), including hospital, home care and nursing home workers, public services (government employees), and property services (including janitors and security officers). With over 300 local branches, SEIU is affiliated with the Change to Win Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress. It is based in Washington, D.C., and is structured into seven internal vagabras: Communications, Education, Human Rights, International Affairs, Organization, Political, and Research.

SEIU is sometimes referred to as the "purple ocean," easily recognized at political events thanks to the union's purple shirts. The union is also known for its Justice for Janitors campaigns.


The SEIU was founded in 1921 in Chicago as the Building Services Employees Union (BSEIU); its first members were janitors, elevator operators, and window washers. Membership increased significantly with a strike in New York City's Garment District in 1934. Continued growth through new member organizing, and affiliations and mergers with other unions resulted in a membership working in industries well beyond BSEIU's initial boundaries, leading it to change its name to Service Employees International Union in 1968. In 1980 it absorbed the International Jewellery Workers Union, and later the Drug, Hospital, and Health Care Employees Union (Local 1199), Health & Human Services Workers.

In 1995, SEIU President John Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO, the labor federation that serves as an umbrella organization for unions. 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.Fact|date=February 2007

In 2003, SEIU was a founding member of the New Unity Partnership, an organization of unions which pushed for reforms at the national level, and most importantly, 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 election 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."

Recent organizing

Recently, the union has made a concerted effort to expand outside of its traditional base on the coasts. Since 2004, the union has seen success organizing workers in Texas, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona in particular.Fact|date=February 2007 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. [Steven Greenhouse, "Janitors' Union, Recently Organized, Strikes in Houston," "New York Times," November 3, 2006.] 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. [Steven Greenhouse, "Walkout Ends at University of Miami as Janitors' Pact Is Reached," "New York Times," May 2, 2006.] 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. [National Labor Relations Board, "NLRB Election Report. Cases Closed: February 2006," March 10, 2006.]

There is also a joint local of SEIU and the New York-based union UNITE HERE called Service Workers United.

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." [Clawson, Dan. "The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements." Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2003. ISBN 0801488702; Tait, Vanessa. "Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor from Below." Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2005. ISBN 089608714X; Fantasia, Rick and Voss, Kim. "Hard Work: Remaking the American Labor Movement." Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2004. ISBN 0520240901]

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. ["Collective Bargaining With Adult Foster Home Providers," Executive Order No. 07-07, Executive Office of the Governor, State of Oregon, June 1, 2007.] 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 Kulonoski 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. [ State Government - ] ] 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. []

With the addition of the approximately 3,500 commercial and relative adult foster care providers, SEIU became the largest union in Oregon, and is being credited by SEIU International with pushing the number of members in the SEIU healthcare division over 1,000,000.

Notable locals

SEIU's largest local union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East has a membership of 250,000 and claims to be the largest local union in the world.

In 1997, SEIU Local 790 formed the Exotic Dancers Union and organized the workers of the Lusty Lady peep show in San Francisco. This was the first (and, as of 2006, the only) union drive to result in a collective bargaining agreement at a peep show or strip club in the United States.

SEIU Local 32BJ is a politically outspoken building services local based in New York.

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 putting control of UHW West in the hands of a trustee, replacing locally elected officials.The international arranged the hearing in response to: “allegations that the leadership engaged in a pattern of misconduct, financial malpractice and fraud involving the diversion of millions of dollars of union treasury monies.” [Cite news
title=Press release: SEIU To Lead Comprehensive Ethics Reform Initiative
publisher=SEIU (via Marketwatch via PR Newswire)
] Local organizers opposed the proposed trusteeship saying, “It is clear that Stern is retaliating against us for fighting his attempt to move more than 65,000 of our members into a union where his hand-picked leaders were allegedly diverting more than a million dollars in dues money for personal use.” [Cite web
title=Home page: News: Hands off our union!
publisher=SEIU-UHW West
] UHW West announced a lawsuit filed by 28 members against international leaders Andy Stern and Anna Burger, in connection with the dispute. [Cite news
title=Press release: Members Sue National Officers
publisher=SEIU-UHW West (via MarketWatch via PR Newswire)
] The trusteeship hearing is scheduled to open on September 26.

In popular culture

SEIU's Los Angeles Justice for Janitors campaign was portrayed in the motion picture Bread and Roses.

On the popular long-running television show "ER," the service employee Jerry Markovic (played by Abraham Benrubi) often wears an SEIU t-shirt, which reflects the fact that SEIU represents more than a quarter million hospital service workers in the United States.


* 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, now president of the AFL-CIO)
* Richard Cordtz (1995-1996)
* Andy Stern (1996-)



* [ "Collective Bargaining With Adult Foster Home Providers." Executive Order No. 07-07. Executive Office of the Governor. State of Oregon. June 1, 2007.] Accessed April 7, 2007.
*Greenhouse, Steven. "Janitors' Union, Recently Organized, Strikes in Houston." "New York Times." November 3, 2006.
*Greenhouse, Steven. "Walkout Ends at University of Miami as Janitors' Pact Is Reached." "New York Times." May 2, 2006.
* [ National Labor Relations Board. "NLRB Election Report. Cases Closed: February 2006." Washington, D.C.: National Labor Relations Board, March 10, 2006.] Accessed April 7, 2007.

External links

* [ SEIU International]
* [ SEIU International (Canada)]
* [ Nurse Alliance]
* [ Value Care, Value Nurses campaign]
* [ Change to Win Federation]
* [ SEIU Collections at Walter P. Reuther Library] at Wayne State University

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