Issued June 27, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Service Employees International Union’s International Executive Board voted unanimously Friday to elect April Verrett as Secretary-Treasurer and Joseph Bryant as Executive Vice President, adding two dynamic young leaders to President Mary Kay Henry’s leadership team as SEIU intensifies our growing Unions for All effort.
In their new posts, Verrett and Bryant, both presidents of large SEIU locals in California, will be key drivers of the union’s push to make sure every worker has the right to join a union, no matter where they work or what ZIP code they live in. Both leaders have been at the forefront of major SEIU initiatives to help workers organize at scale in the healthcare and public sectors in California and beyond. They replace Gerry Hudson and Valarie Long, respectively, who announced their retirements earlier this month after a combined 81 years of service to the union.
“We’ve reached a moment of great reckoning in our country, where our communities are under constant attack from white supremacist violence, jobs that don’t pay us enough to live, healthcare we can’t access and can’t afford, underfunded schools, and unaffordable housing,” Henry said. “April and Joseph’s rich life and professional experiences provide them with the foundation to be the next generation of leaders that help SEIU meet this moment and ensure we rewrite the rules that have been rigged against workers and against people of color, while billionaires and giant corporations do whatever they want.”
PUTTING CARE WORKERS ON THE NATIONAL AGENDA
Verrett, 47, was raised by her grandmother, an SEIU member, after her mother died as a result of complications from childbirth. Her grandmother taught her to work hard, be resilient and to both have pride and be humble, and Verrett spent her adult life bringing those qualities to her work building SEIU - in Chicago at SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana and its predecessor SEIU Local 20 and more recently in California, leading the 385,000-member SEIU Local 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care workers’ union.
Verrett chairs SEIU’s National Home Care Council, co-chairs the National Organizing Committee, and is a member of the Finance Committee. Through her leadership at SEIU, Verrett has been a prominent advocate for care workers during the pandemic, emerging as one of the leading voices in the country for home care workers and chief strategist in SEIU members’ fight to reimagine the future of care work in our country through federal investment in good, union, living-wage home care jobs.
“April brings ambitious vision, courageous leadership and a life experience that fuels her unshakeable belief in the power to make change when we come together across race,” Henry said. “As the leader of the largest local union in California, April has staked her leadership on every member of her multicultural local being able to see her as their leader no matter where they come from or what color they are. April's feet are solidly on the ground while her vision and hope for the future for all of us is aspirational.”
At SEIU Local 2015, Verrett successfully fought for the permanent restoration of the major funding cuts to IHSS, the state's home care program ensuring greater access to care; won a dramatic expansion of state-funded training opportunities for home care workers to upskill; and secured hazard pay and greater investments in PPE and safety standards for home care workers.
She has also been tapped twice to serve the people of California by Gov. Gavin Newsom — on the Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force and the COVID-19 Taskforce on Business and Jobs Recovery. Verrett is chair of the Black Experience Action Team of the Committee for Greater L.A., a coalition of leaders who came together to understand the impact of COVID-19 on different populations. She’s also a board member of Advancement Project California — a leading racial justice organization that uses research to expand and shift public investments toward programs that benefit all Californians. She serves on the board of Smart Justice California to educate and embolden policymakers who support meaningful criminal justice reforms. In 2021, Verrett was elected controller of the California Democratic Party.
“Today's labor movement requires us to speak directly with the workers who are powering today's economy, which is increasingly driven by the service and care workers of SEIU,” Verrett said. “We are the workers who provide care to those who need it most and who keep our communities running. As working people, we have power and are seizing it as a political and social force to be reckoned with. Together in our union, we have to continue addressing poverty and income inequality, challenge corporate power and be ready to cause disruption. I'm proud to take this step at such a critical moment for our union and our nation.”
A VOICE FOR RACIAL JUSTICE
Bryant, 40, is the first Asian American Pacific Islander president of SEIU 1021, which represents Northern California workers who make cities, schools, colleges, counties, and special districts safe and healthy places to live and raise families. Under his leadership, SEIU 1021’s 60,000 members are protecting and expanding vital public programs, holding corporations accountable, and building a worker-led movement to reclaim our democracy.
Bryant’s passion for economic justice is rooted in his work and experience as an employment and training specialist for the City and County of San Francisco, where he oversaw job and apprenticeship placement programs. In this capacity, he saw the transformative power of good union jobs in lifting up working families and communities out of the devastation of the Great Recession.
Prior to his work at the City and County of San Francisco, Bryant was the executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a community-based nonprofit that promoted civic engagement and increased access to public services for San Francisco’s most vulnerable communities.
At SEIU 1021, Bryant has advocated not just for his members, but for workers across the state who are fighting against all odds for the right to join a union. He has stood with Uber and Lyft drivers in their struggle against the companies’ efforts to prevent them from joining together for a voice on the job; and he’s supported fast-food workers across California who are organizing to set minimum health, safety, wage and employment standards across the industry via AB 257, landmark legislation that would create a sector-wide council to give workers a voice on the job.
As a leader known for advocating for racial and economic justice, Bryant has spearheaded fights to secure contracts that protect public services from privatization and policies that raise wages and improve working conditions for low-wage workers of color, such as San Francisco’s Minimum Compensation Ordinance. To address the systemic inequity around retention and discrimination that disproportionately affected Black and Brown workers in San Francisco, Local 1021, under Bryant’s leadership, took on the fight head on by making bold racial justice demands in bargaining, which led to the creation of the Office of Racial Equity in San Francisco.
“Structural racism manifests itself in all facets and systems of the United States’ society,” Bryant said. “If we want to build a better and different future for all people, Black, Brown, API and White, it is the duty and responsibility of all unions and union members to tenaciously fight for racial and economic justice, as our fates are linked. I’m excited to continue that fight as part of SEIU’s national leadership team.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and essential workers on the frontlines were left to fend for themselves, Joseph led his local to take militant actions, including taking to the streets and car caravans to advocate and win protections for the members, including personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard pay, extended health care and paid sick leave. In response to the rise of racial discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities Joseph led his local to stand against Asian hate in the Bay Area, bringing awareness and promoting unity amongst people of color.
“Joseph brings a vision that challenges all of us to work at the intersections of issues that impact the lives of working people,” Henry said. “I stood in awe as I witnessed the work of Joseph and his leadership team in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd when they turned out more than 5,000 people in person in the midst of the pandemic to take a knee for change in support of the Movement for Black Lives”
Verrett and Bryant join Henry’s leadership team as the organization’s fight to win Unions for All enters its next stage. Henry launched Unions for All just before Labor Day in 2019 with a goal of making it possible for all workers to join together across employers, industries and geographies—not workplace by workplace—to enable millions of workers to win a voice on the job. Today, as working people are exercising power like never before—striking, bargaining strong contracts, winning unions and demanding a seat at the table with employers in states and cities across the nation—SEIU has two bold, new leaders to help drive the effort.