Service Employees International Union

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CNN report on SEIU's lobbying for Obama's health care proposals
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.

Sources close to the union told The Washington Post that Andy Stern is going to retire as the union's President on April 12, 2010. This was confirmed via a e-mail the newspaper got a hold of from its Seattle Area President[1].

Election involvement

Coakley/Brown campaign

U.S. Senate special election, Massachusetts, 2010

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.[2]

Jeff Denham recall

See also: Jeff Denham recall (2008)

The SEIU spent $450,000 in 2008 in a vain attempt to recall California State Senator Jeff Denham, a Republican they sought to punish because he did not vote for their preferred version of the California state budget that year.[3]

Petition blocking lawsuit

See also: Petition blocking

On October 30, 2007, Ralph Nader named SEIU as a co-defendant in Nader v. DNC. In the ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit, 2004 Reform Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader accused the Democratic National Committee of "groundless and abusive litigation" to bankrupt Ralph Nader's campaign and force him off the ballot in 18 states.[4]

California legislature

See also: California State Council of Service Employees

The California State Assembly has 80 members. 50 of the 80 members were Democrats (as of March 2010). The California State Council of Service Employees, an SEIU affiliate, was one of the top 5 donors of over 40 of the 50 Democrats in the assembly elections of 2008, in most cases giving the maximum legally-allowable donation of $14,400.

Ballot measure activism

SEIU affiliates are significant donors to political committees that both oppose and support ballot measures in states throughout the country.


Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Congressional Redistricting (Florida) Approveda $225,000
Legislative Redistricting (Florida) Approveda $225,000


Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Proposition 1A (California) $16 billion tax increase, spending caps Defeatedd $1.3 million Defeatedd
Question 4 (Maine) Tax relief proposal Defeatedd $100,000 Defeatedd
Initiative 1033 (Washington) Property tax limits Defeatedd $297,500 Defeatedd


See also: 2008 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Proposition 98 (California) Protect homes from government seizure Defeatedd $900,000 Defeatedd
Proposition 93 (California) Softening of Term limits Approveda $100,000 Defeatedd
Amendment 47 (Colorado) Right to work Defeatedd $2.45 million Defeatedd
Proposition B (Missouri) Health care unions for home workers Approveda $936,000 Approveda
Measures 58, 58 (Oregon) English immersion, state income tax deductions Defeatedd $1.2 million Defeatedd
Initiative 1029 (Washington) Training for health care workers Approveda $955,000 Approveda


See also: 2007 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Measure 50 (Oregon) Cigarette tax hike Approveda $142,460 Defeatedd
Initiative 960 (Washington) Limits on taxes Defeatedd Approveda


See also: 2006 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Proposition 202 (Arizona) Minimum wage increase Approveda $615,976 Approveda
Proposition 82 (California) Free half-day of pre-school for 4-year-olds Approveda $1.5 million Defeatedd
Amendment 42 (Colorado) Minimum wage increase Approveda $21,375 Approveda
Amendment 43 (Colorado) Definition of marriage Defeatedd $150,000 Approveda
Proposition B (Missouri) Minimum wage increase Approveda $210,000 Approveda
Measures 41 and 48 (Oregon) Income tax deductions, spending cap Defeatedd $516,632 Defeatedd
Measure 45 (Oregon) Term limits Defeatedd $120,167 Defeatedd
Measure 46 (Oregon) Campaign finance Defeatedd $145,167 Approveda


See also: 2005 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
State Spending Act, Referendum C (Colorado) Temporary suspension of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Approveda $130,000 Approveda


See also: 2004 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Prop 200 (Arizona) Proof of citizenship for voting/benefits Defeatedd $660,000 Approveda
Prop 56 (California) Reduce vote threshold needed for state legislature to raise taxes Approveda $9 million Defeatedd
Prop 72 (California) Health care Approveda $4 million Defeatedd
Amendment 5 (Florida) Minimum wage increase Approveda $125,000 Approveda
Measure 36 (Oregon) No same-sex marriage Defeatedd $10,962 Approveda


See also: 2002 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Proposition 42 (California) Funding for transportation Approveda $950,000 Approveda


See also: 2000 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Proposition 38 (California) School vouchers Defeatedd $200,000 Defeatedd


See also: 1998 ballot measures
Measure Subject SEIU position SEIU donations Result
Proposition 223 (California) Limit on how much a school district can spend on administrative costs Defeatedd $100,880 Defeatedd

External links


  1. The Washington Post "Andrew Stern set to resign as head of major union, SEIU official says", April 12, 2010
  2. Boston Globe "Union plans major ad buy for Coakley" 12 Jan. 2010
  3. Hank Shaw's blog, Denham Recall: Labor adds another $450k, April 30, 2008
  4. "Nader sues, claims Democrats sabotaged his 2004 campaign", October 31, 2007

Parts of the original version of this article were taken from Wikipedia's article on the Service Employees International Union, under the GFDL license, when Wikipedia still used the GFDL license.