SEIU National Media,

Issued May 20, 2024

SEIU Elects New Diverse Leadership and Unveils Bold Vision at Quadrennial Convention in Philadelphia

In a historic vote, members elect the union’s first Black woman President and first Latina Secretary-Treasurer

PHILADELPHIA, PA - Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members made history today by electing April Verrett as International President, making her the first Black woman to lead the union in its 103-year history. Verrett previously served as Secretary-Treasurer alongside Mary Kay Henry, who stepped down as president after an influential fourteen-year tenure. Over 3,500 SEIU members from across the country, Puerto Rico, and Canada participated in the vote held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center during the union’s first in-person convention in eight years. In addition to the election of Verrett, Rocío Sáenz, who previously served as Executive Vice President, was elected as Secretary-Treasurer. Executive Vice Presidents Heather Conroy, Leslie Frane, Joseph Bryant, and Neal Bisno were reelected.

The election of these two women of color to lead the union signals a significant shift in the labor movement and the recommitment of SEIU to a culture and economy that leaves no one behind. Verrett and Sáenz’s leadership embodies the union’s role of ensuring that every worker, particularly Black and Brown workers who have been written off and written out of our nation’s labor laws, are empowered and included in the labor movement's future.

Verrett’s presidency in this powerful moment for workers is new, but her leadership is not. She has been working alongside union members to build worker power for the last 20 years, and her election reflects a labor movement that is growing more diverse and youthful, and that fundamentally understands how power works and who it works for.

“I am thankful that hardworking SEIU members have trusted me to lead this union as we unleash a new era of worker power,” said April Verrett, newly elected SEIU President. “By joining together, organizing, and – in many cases – striking, working people are taking power back from corporate interests and using that power to lift up their families and communities. Make no mistake – working people are under attack and the stakes have never been higher; but the real challenge and opportunity of leading our union in this moment is meeting the momentum of workers across the country – especially the young people of color – who are showing us what's possible. I'm energized and honored to take on that challenge, and I believe that together we can end poverty wages once and for all.”

In her remarks to SEIU members, Verrett unveiled her ten-year vision for SEIU, including an ambitious goal of uniting one million new members by 2034 by winning bold sectoral organizing victories that raise standards for workers across industries and lift workers who have historically been excluded.

Tomorrow, Verrett will deliver a keynote address and members will vote on a core resolution that details the union’s ten-year vision and sets a course for the union’s future. The newly elected leadership team will also welcome U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will address the convention.

Background on SEIU Officers:

SEIU President April Verrett is a fighter for working people and a visionary leader at the forefront of building a modern-day labor movement that is anti-racist at its core.

Having dedicated most of her career to helping workers build power through their unions, Verrett is driven by the conviction that unions give workers a platform to fight for more than wages, benefits and working conditions. Unions for All can help eradicate generational poverty, dismantle structural racism, strengthen our democracy and generally improve workers’ lives and communities.

Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Verrett was raised by her grandmother, a Union Steward for SEIU Local 46, who taught her the values of perseverance, collective action, and community.

Verrett has served as Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU for the past two years, leading the union’s strategic planning process to develop its plan for the future. As President of SEIU Local 2015, California’s largest local union and the nation’s largest long-term care union, she fought on behalf of more than 400,000 long-term care providers working in both nursing homes and private homes throughout California. She has also served as Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (HCII), where she played an instrumental role in holding corporations accountable and advocating for them to pay their fair share in taxes. At SEIU, Verrett has also chaired the union’s National Home Care Council, co-chaired the National Organizing Committee, and served as a member of the Finance Committee.

Verrett brings ambitious vision, courageous leadership, and life experience that fuels her unshakeable belief in the power of everyday people to make change when we come together across race. She holds a firm belief that our power comes from our diversity.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Rocío Sáenz has been fighting for immigrant, worker, and racial justice for more than three decades. After coming to the U.S. from Mexico, she worked low-wage jobs until she became a union organizer in 1988. Within two years she became one of the key organizers of the famous 1990 "Justice for Janitors" strike in Los Angeles, which the LAPD violently and unsuccessfully attempted to quell. No one believed these immigrant janitors could win, but win they did. The strike taught Sáenz a lesson that has become a core belief: when workers come together and courageously take action, they gain the power they need to make positive changes in the workplace and in our society. Only through unions, Sáenz believes, can workers address structural problems, from low wages to racism to environmental degradation.

Since then, Sáenz has spent the last three decades working alongside underpaid workers – janitors, security officers, airport workers, fast food workers and others – to win better lives through Justice for Janitors-style campaigning. First elected SEIU Executive Vice President in 2013, she led SEIU's 386,000-member Property Services Division, directed SEIU's work to create a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, and oversaw the Property Services section of UNI Global Union, which has more than 200 affiliates throughout the world. From 2017-2019, Sáenz directed SEIU’s successful Fight for $15 campaign throughout the country.

Prior to becoming Executive Vice President, Sáenz led SEIU Local 615 in Boston, where she was elected President in 2003. In 2002, she organized a month-long strike that saw thousands of janitors in Boston win dramatically better wages and working conditions and drew widespread support from the media, clergy, politicians, and community groups.