SEIU 25th International Convention
The SEIU 25th International Convention is taking place right now in Denver, CO. We'll be reporting from Denver on this site all week. We'll also have regular updates and pictures on Facebook.
Note: This page will be updated throughout the week, so check back often for updates.
You can also find convention information on the SEIU International Website.
Wednesday, May 30.
'Our Path is Clear.'
The final day of the convention was dedicated to International Union business. First up, delegates voted on a series of resolutions, which various Locals had proposed to the Executive Board.
SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover rose to speak out in favor of a resolution sponsored by 721 members that calls on SEIU to oppose the bank foreclosures that are devastating our communities. Flanked by members of the 721 delegation, Schoonover said, "The housing crisis has hit SEIU members hard. We hear the devastating stories of members getting thrown out of their homes every day." He added, "Taking on campaigns to fix housing, with our community partners, is critical to fighting for the 99%."
Read the full text of Bob Schoonover's speech here.
After another series of resolutions, it was time to elect members of the International Executive Board. The SEIU 721 delegation
caucused during the voting process and eventually cast its ballot. In the end, we're proud that SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover was re-elected to the International Executive Board, along with fourteen other union leaders. Schoonover's election gives SEIU 721 members a lot of influence throughout our international union.
As the convention wound down, SEIU 721 member Rosie Martinez reflected on her experience in Denver. "I have attended many conventions, but this convention offers a vision unique in its design for creating a just and fair society for all," Rosie writes in her blog. "Our path is clear and our transformation is real. We must re-elect President Barack Obama, end income inequality, organize millions into unions, engage our youth in action and leadership, elect champions with a mandate that reflects our vision, direct action to take our communities back, mobilize other members and build the 99% movement so that we all benefit--not just the 1%."
Read the rest of Rosie's blog here.
Tuesday, May 29.
Taking It To The Streets
A lot of what happens at the International Convention takes place inside the walls of the Colorado Convention Center. But this morning we decided to take our message out onto the streets of Denver, where 3,000 people protested Wells Fargo's reckless behavior as America's biggest tax-dodging corporation.
Workers, union members and activists from around the country joined Coloradoans from all walks of life in a march from the Colorado Convention Center to the front steps of Wells Fargo bank.
Leading the thousands assembled in chants of "Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!" and "We are the 99 percent!" was none other than SEIU 721's own LA County Director Michael Green.
"It was awesome!" Stacee Karnya, a chemist with the LA City Bureau of Sanitation later said of the action. "There
was so much energy and noise. It was great to see all of that unity. Groups from all over the country came together and told Wells Fargo it needs to pay its fair share."
After the chanting, members danced in a flash mob to a rewritten version of the Black Eyed Peas hit, "I Got a Feeling." Among the dancers getting their grooves on was SEIU 721's own Garr Wharry, who'd been practicing for the flash mob all week. You can check out Garr's moves and all the action on the SEIU website and on our Facebook page.
'Powerful and Inspiring'
The afternoon session focused on approving convention rules. That sounds like pretty dry stuff, but the crowd here is fired up. Even the most straightforward comments on the motions includes inspiring language about how we must stop the 1 percent from continuing to dominate our politics, our economy and our country.
Amid the discussion of convention rules, Mary Kay Henry's phone rang and who was on the other end? None other than President Barack Obama. President Obama addressed the crowd, though it was hard for him to get many words in amidst the chants of "Four more years!"
"We've got to return the security of the middle class," President Obama told the electrified crowd, adding, "You guys have been friends, not just allies. So I hope everyone is fired up and ready to go." That short phrase ignited a rousing chant of "Fired up! Ready to go!"
"You guys make me so proud. I love SEIU," the President told the cheering crowd.
With presidential elections on their minds, the delegates turned to their own presidential election. Mary Kay Henry's name was placed into nomination and then she was unanimously re-elected International President.
SEIU member delegates also unanimously re-elected Eliseo Medina for International Secretary Treasurer, the number two post in the union. Convention delegates also unanimously re-elected Executive Vice Presidents Kirk Adams, Gerry Hudson, Eileen Kirlin, Valerie Long and Tom Woodruff. Mike Fishman, the current president of SEIU Local 32BJ, who led that union to nearly triple its size to 120,000 members in eight states and Washington, D.C., was also unanimously elected to serve as the newest International Executive Vice President.
So what was it like to be here? Robert Gonzales, an LA City gardener/caretaker, reflected on his experience as a first-time delegate. "It's inspiring, educational and powerful," Gonzales said. "Being here makes me wanna get out there and fight for everyone's rights. This is bigger than the union. I see that now. Mary Kay Henry sold me on the position that we must unite and lead the 99 percent. We must unite others and lead them to be successful."
Monday, May 28.
Get Up! Stand Up!
The morning began with a gathering of all the members of the Public Services Division. Members of the SEIU 721 delegation looked proud and united in their convention t-shirts, which were custom-designed for the event.
SEIU Executive Vice President Eileen Kirlin rallied us to the cause of taking back our country from the 1%. "Hope is the gift of this union and it is the gift of our public service members," Kirlin said.
As if Kirlin's remarks weren't enough to lift our spirits, members from California Locals 521 and 1021 led us in a chant of Bob Marley's classic song, "Get Up, Stand Up!" And you can bet we all got up and sang out loud.
Next, it was time to look at some successes. Simi Valley resident Garr Wharry told the 900+ public sector workers assembled how 721 members led the fight against library privatization last year. Garr's presentation was terrific, but even he'd be the first to admit he was upstaged by the Privatization Beast in this video, which Wharry showed the crowd.
Then SEIU President Mary Kay Henry drove home the idea that "the right wing has a target on the backs of our public service members."
Individual members echoed President Henry's remarks by telling stories of their own hardships. One members, whose salary was cut by $20 thousand due to cutbacks and furloughs, said, "We're just surviving."
President Henry left on a high note, praising public sector members. "In spite [of the cutbacks in government spending], you manage to wake up and believe in the people you work for every day," she said. Then she added, "We are going to use every ounce of this union's energy to insist that we leave this world a better place for the next generation."
Next up, Orange County member Renee Hernandez addressed the convention, telling them how part-time workers in Santa Ana successfully organized themselves and joined SEIU 721 earlier this year. "Now we have a voice and we have a say," Hernandez said.
At the lunch break, Riverside City Database Administrator Glenn Sanders reflected on what he took away from the
morning session. "We need a plan to win and I feel like we are definitely getting on the right path," said Sanders. "We have to stop the decline in union membership and participation and built a society with a growing middle class."
After the lunch break, members of the Public Services Division rolled up their sleeves and got down to the work of approving the Blueprint for the Future, the document that will shape the work we all do. The Blueprint lays out a plan to tackle economic inequality; unite workers to fight and win for good jobs; and build a stronger voice to improve public services and engage members in more significant ways than ever before. Members Michael Simpson, Keenan Sheedy and Arnella Sims all commented on the Blueprint, which the delegates overwhelmingly approved.
Afterward Rosa Castro, a procurement specialist in the Ventura Superior Court, said that Division Day had been eye-opening for her. "I saw that the issues we face in our communities are the same issues everyone's facing. We're all struggling with the same problems. Thankfully, we're also united in the fight to solve those problems for the 99%."