Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a labor union representing 1.9 million workers in about 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).
SEIU is based in Washington, D.C., and is structured into seven internal departments: Communications, Education, Human Rights, International Affairs, Organization, Political, and Research.
The SEIU was founded in 1921 in Chicago; 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. Formerly known as the Building Service Employees' International Union, it absorbed the International Jewelry Workers Union in 1980 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.
Secretary of State Project
SEIU is a core member of the Secretary of State Project. The purpose of the project, according to founder Becky Bond, is to elect Democrats to positions as Secretaries of State because "Any serious commitment to wrestling control of the country from the Republican Party must include removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count.”
In the last week of the January 2010 contest between Scott P. Brown and Martha Coakley in Massachusetts to fill the seat in the United States Senate made vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, At around the same time, SEIU took out a television ad buy worth "$685,000, one of the largest of the election" on behalf of Coakley.
The SEIU spent $450,000 in 2008 in a vain attempt to recall California State SenatorJeff Denham, a Republican they sought to punish because he did not vote for their preferred version of the California state budget that year.
Ballot measure activism
SEIU affiliates are significant donors to political committees that both oppose and support ballot measures in states throughout the country.