New SEIU President, Mary Kay Henry, to Continue Focus on Organizing Health Care Workers

Following on the heels of the politically charged and controversial tenure of Andy Stern, who increased the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) membership by one million members to 1.8 million workers, Mary Kay Henry appears determined to continue this trend.  Henry ascends to the SEIU presidency after six years as Executive Vice President of the union’s healthcare operations and has an established resume of healthcare organizing.  According to Henry, the SEIU intends to “figure out how to reach out to nonunion workers like never before.”  In fact, she hopes to increase membership by more than 150,000 members per year and intends to provide members with a louder political voice at the local and national levels.  “Our local unions and divisions should drive our national priorities, not the other way around, and our national initiatives should be designed to put wind in the sails of our local and industry-based organizing strategies.”  Part of this approach involves spending in excess of $250 million per year on organizing more workers and increasing its anticipated spending on governors’ races from $10 million to $14 million in 2010.  Health care workers comprise about half of SEIU’s membership ranks. 

The new health care reform legislation also may play a role in Henry’s efforts at increasing membership.  In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Henry said, “I think we’ll see more workers wanting to join a union so they can have a say” in the way in which their employers respond to the health care bill and implement certain provisions.  Henry’s track record combined with her motivation to substantially increase SEIU’s membership and political capital means that health care employers can expect to see more union organizing of their nurses, doctors, lab technicians, home health workers, and other employees in the health care field. 

This entry was written by Jennifer L. Mora.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.