We are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an organization of 2-million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.

History

Explore key moments in the history of SEIU.

1921

Workers Form the Building Service Employees Union

When the Building Service Employees Union (BSEIU) first formed in Chicago in 1921, it was far ahead of its time. Unlike most unions of its day, BSEIU was integrated. In fact, Black, immigrant and women members already held leadership roles. As William Quesse, the union’s first president and son of German immigrants said, “we are composed of all creeds, colors and nationalities, and do not allow anyone to use prejudice in the organization against each other.”

1934

New York Building Workers Strike & Win Their Union

Building service workers formed 32-B in April of 1934 and went on strike in November. Manhattan’s skyscrapers were largely inaccessible without elevator operators, but even by the standards of the Great Depression, building service workers’ wages were low and they were treated poorly.  Building workers in around 400 buildings in midtown Manhattan’s garment district went on strike and won union rights.

1941

Healthcare Workers Join BSEIU and Win Ground-Breaking Contract

Inspired by the 1934 general strike in San Francisco, healthcare workers organized their hospital. They then joined BSEIU and won a groundbreaking first contract with the San Francisco Hospital Conference, covering 11 hospitals. This laid the groundwork for present-day SEIU to eventually become the country’s largest healthcare union.

Workers at San Francisco General Hospital, c. 1937
Workers at San Francisco General Hospital, c. 1937
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1953

Public Workers Join BSEIU

Elinor Marshall Glenn, the first woman to become General Manager at SEIU Local 434, helped organize thousands of public hospital workers in LA County.

1961

BSEIU Fights for Civil Rights

BSEIU President David Sullivan established a Civil Rights Committee and created an action plan to support the fight against segregation and racism. In 1963 President Sullivan, and many other BSEIU members, attended the March on Washington.

SEIU Local 54 Members and Officers, March on Washington, Washington DC 1963
SEIU Local 54 Members and Officers, March on Washington, Washington DC 1963

1968

BSEIU Officially Becomes SEIU

1975

Working Women’s Movement 9 to 5 Joins with SEIU

In 1972, women office workers banded together to form 9to5, National Association of Working Women. After three years, their founders realized they needed a way to hold their bosses accountable. They joined SEIU and formed Local 925 in Boston. The movement inspired the box office success comedy, 9 to 5, starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.

1980’s

Home Care Workers Win Their Union

SEIU began organizing home care workers in the early 1980s. SEIU currently represents over 740,000 home care workers across the country, including over 100,000 in CA alone.

1984

As Healthcare Members Fight HIV/AIDS Crisis, Union Advocates for LGBT Members

Considered radical at the time, as SEIU healthcare members cared for HIV/AIDS patients, the union worked to raise awareness and spread information about the need for compassionate care. SEIU also advocated for its LGBT members, adopting a resolution supporting benefits for LGBT members and their families. The documentary, 5B features SEIU member Mary Magee.

1990

Janitors Rise Up for Justice

In the 1980s, janitor wages stagnated and workers were losing their benefits. Janitors working in Los Angeles began to organize. On June 15, 1990, members of the janitor’s union in Los Angeles launched a strike & peaceful protest to win much needed workplace improvements. The janitors—predominantly underpaid immigrant women & men—were up against a powerful business community & multinational corporations. On that day, janitors, their families and supporters marched through the high-rise buildings of Century City, where they were met with aggressive force at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department. News cameras captured baton-wielding police officers striking custodians—including men and women lying face-down on the ground. Janitors were injured. Some very badly. More than 60 would end up in hospital rooms. Two of the hospitalized were pregnant women - one who would miscarry.

This event sparked the Justice for Janitors movement that spread across the country. Since the movement began in 1990, more than 160,000 janitors have won their union and their determination inspired the film Bread and Roses.

1992

SEIU reaches one million members.

1999

Airport Workers in Los Angeles Unite, Leading to Nationwide Campaign

Airport workers, including baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and cabin cleaners, first united and won their union at Los Angeles International Airport. Contracted airport workers, who are primarily immigrants and people of color, joined together across differences to confront corporate power and have since won higher wages and other benefits for more than 155,000 airport workers at 23 airports across the country. They continue to be part of the fight for $15 and a union.

2000

First Security Officers Win Their Union with SEIU

Security officers united across the industry — from hospitals, schools, parks, transportation hubs, businesses, libraries and government institutions — to raise work standards. Today, SEIU is the nation’s largest Security Officers union, with 70,000 union officers in cities like Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and more.

Miami Security Officers Defend City's Living Wage Ordinance
Miami Security Officers Defend City's Living Wage Ordinance

2005

Childcare Workers Win a Union & Launch a National Campaign

After a decade of organizing for the right to collectively bargain, 49,000 family child care providers in Illinois win their union election and begin bargaining a ground-breaking contract that will increase their pay by as much as 35%, provide access to health care for the first time, and improve the quality of care for the children they serve.  This ushers in a wave of child care organizing across the country, improving the lives of tens of thousands more child care workers and bringing them into the movement for a better child care system for all working families.

2008

SEIU reaches 2 million members

2010

First Woman Elected to Lead SEIU

In 2010, Mary Kay Henry became the first woman elected to the office of International President of SEIU). Under her leadership, SEIU members have won major victories to improve the jobs of healthcare, property services and public sector workers across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Henry’s decision to back the courageous fast-food workers and other service and care workers in the historic "Fight for $15 and a Union" movement has helped 24 million working Americans win wage increases.

2012

Fast Food Workers Help Ignite Low-Wage Worker Movement

200 fast-food workers went on strike in New York, helping to ignite a conversation on low wages, inequality, race and corporate power in America. Soon thereafter, the movement adopted the name “Fight for $15 and a Union.” Their movement has pushed more than two dozen cities and counties and more than half a dozen states to move toward a $15 minimum wage and many more to increase wages. The group continues to demand accountability for low wages and poor working conditions from employers throughout the industry, most notably McDonalds.

2013

Higher Education Workers Begin to Organize

Despite years of education and doing much of the same work as their tenured counterparts, adjunct professors in Boston, as the rest of the country, faced precarious working conditions, no benefits and low pay. They began to organize their unions at schools across the city. The movement spread across the country, to graduate workers, non-tenure track and professional staff, with workers at more than 70 campuses nationwide winning their union and improving working conditions.

2021

Celebrating 100 Years!

April 23, 2021 SEIU Celebrates 100 Years 

Our Leadership

SEIU officers are elected by members at the convention every four years.

Mary Kay Henry, President

Mary Kay Henry

President

Gerry Hudson, Secretary-Treasurer

Gerry Hudson

Secretary-Treasurer

Valarie Long, Executive Vice President

Valarie Long

Executive Vice President

Rocio Saenz, Executive Vice President

Rocio Saenz

Executive Vice President

Neal Bisno, Executive Vice President

Neal Bisno

Executive Vice President

Heather Conroy, Executive Vice President

Heather Conroy

Executive Vice President

Leslie Frane, Executive Vice President

Leslie Frane

Executive Vice President

Campaigns

Since 2012 when 200 fast-food workers first went on strike, the Fight for $15 and a Union has become an international, multi-racial, worker-led movement demanding $15 an hour and union rights at McDonald’s and across the economy. Today, over 30% of all U.S. workers are on a path to $15 an hour.

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Airport workers are proving that when we speak out for $15 and a union, we can change our lives. By coming together across race, language and religion, 152,000 airport workers have won raises and job improvements and 30,000 have joined SEIU. We won't stop until we win Unions for All. #PovertyDoesntFly

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Everyone—Black, white and brown—should be able to learn without being trapped in debt and choosing to teach shouldn’t mean living in poverty. College faculty, graduate workers and students are uniting to demand college for all, student debt forgiveness and unions for all. Join our movement.

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Child care providers—Black, white and brown—have come together in a national movement to fight for their right to join a union so they can negotiate higher wages, improve working conditions and have a REAL voice to ensure MORE children have access to quality care. Get involved to show your support.

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We are on a journey to build a society where everyone’s work is valued and all people are respected. Together, we will fight anti-Black racism, structural racism and all forms of racial oppression that prevent working people from earning a good living and having a good life.

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We’re home care workers fighting for higher wages, training to provide better care and affordable long-term care for all. We’re creating good union jobs so more seniors and people with disabilities get the care they need to live with dignity at home. Together, we’re changing the future of home care.

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This dynamic campaign empowers 160,000 union janitors to win respect, at least $15 an hour and a strong union for all cleaners—no matter what we look like or where we’re from. So far, we have pumped more than $1 Billion back into the homes and communities of cleaners. And we aren’t done yet.

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Our national campaign unites a community of security officers and supporters dedicated to bringing good jobs and higher standards to the entire security industry. We are 65,000 union security officers strong and growing, with a commitment to winning respect, at least $15 an hour and Unions for All.

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iAmerica is a source of empowerment for American immigrant families of all walks of life, providing the tools and support to be informed, inspire change and impact America’s future.

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We believe that all people—Black, white and brown—should have access to quality, affordable healthcare and long term care. We’re fighting for affordable healthcare we can all count on and a healthcare system that works for all of us.

Join Us

All working people should have the opportunity to join a union, no matter where we work, to bargain higher wages and better jobs. Join the Fight for $15 and a Union movement's demand for #UnionsForAll.

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Contact Us

General Phone Numbers

General Inquiries 202-730-7000
Toll-free 800-424-8592
TDD 202-730-7481
Member Concerns & Complaints 202-730-7684
Media Inquiries 202-730-7162

To contact health and pension funds, please visit http://www.seiufunds.org

Department Phone Numbers

Ethics Office 202-730-7184
Finance 202-730-7160
Political Action 202-730-7112
Communications 202-730-7162
Meetings & Travel 202-730-7163
Human Resources 202-730-7166
Data & Technology 202-730-7167
Legal 202-730-7168
Property Services 202-730-7169
Health Systems 202-730-7171
Workplace Safety & Health 202-730-7172
Organizing 202-730-7173
Public Services 202-730-7174
Research 202-730-7177
Multi-Services Campaign 202-730-7178
BOLD Center 202-730-7179
Capital Stewardship 202-471-1300

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