e f t y i

SEIU President Stresses Ties with AFSCME to Fight Common Foes

Photo Credit: Alena Kuzub
f t e +

The nation’s four public service unions are working together to fight for worker rights and freedoms – and the corporations, billionaires and anti-worker lawmakers seeking to undermine the labor movement will lose, Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), vowed Thursday.

“Members of your union have joined forces with SEIU, AFT, NEA, and the entire movement. Together, we are reaching out to co-workers across our unions so millions more can recommit to sticking with their union,” she told delegates to the AFSCME 43rd International Convention, referring to the American Federation and Teachers and the National Education Association.

“Corporations think that they can use court decisions to keep millions of underpaid service, care, and education workers shut out of unions,” Henry added.  “We won’t let them. AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU are determined to link arms like the Americans who came before us did to build unions and win civil rights.”

In a post-Janus case era, the four unions face the common challenge of building power in a national right-to-work scenario in the public sector. But the struggle is not new. Right-wing and anti-worker forces have been trying to divide workers for more than 30 years, Henry said.

“They attacked public education and public services,” said Henry, the first woman to lead SEIU. “They made it harder for public employees to deliver quality services to your communities. They attacked unions. They made it harder for working people to organize. And that made it harder for working people to balance against the power and influence that corporations hold over our economy and democracy.”

Darius Cephas (Photo by Luis Gomez)

But there’s good news – and plenty of it.

“The good news is that more and more ordinary Americans are starting to stand up together and fight for something better,” Henry said. “We’ve seen it with teachers from West Virginia to Arizona who walked out to fight for their profession and their students, winning remarkable support from their neighbors and their communities. They demonstrated how collective action can make change happen. We’ve seen how we can make progress city by city, state by state.”

Henry pledged continuing solidarity with AFSCME in the face of common foes.

“We cannot walk alone. We cannot turn back,” she said. “The members of SEIU will be proud to march forward together with you as we fight for a better future, where all families and communities thrive and where we leave a better and more equal world for generations to come.”

Henry was introduced by Darius Cephas, a Boston fast food worker, a leader in the Fight for $15 movement, who is working to unionize fast food workers.

“If one person speaks out on his own, they ignore us,” Cephas said. “But because we are taking action together, we’re starting to get heard. That why this isn’t just about 15. It’s about a union, too.”