On Tuesday, May 29th, attendees of the 25th SEIU Convention, about 3000 members, gathered in the Denver Convention Center for a unity building, informational gathering and powerful day and general session. The voting delegates attending the conference represented 1.8 million members.
The day consisted of a march on the 1%, a flash mob, the election of our International President and other officers (Secretary-Treasurer Roni Green nominated Eileen Kirlin for Executive Vice President of the Public Services Division), voting on resolutions for SEIU and affiliates to follow (President Kathy Jellison spoke in favor of a resolution on Retirement Security) a phone call from President Barack Obama and a visit by Reverend Jesse Jackson to the youth delegation.
In the morning, we joined community activists to march on Wells Fargo to demand they take their fangs out of the neck of working families. Thousands of people shutdown sections of downtown Denver. Participants rallied and chanted for Wells Fargo to pay their fair share of taxes. The action also featured a flash mob of dancing and singing in the streets! Please read the full synopsis and view a video of the event at: http://www.seiu668.org/2012/05/29/over-3000-activists-demand-wells-fargo-to-pay-their-share/
Colorado’s SEIU members kicked off the general session by welcoming us all to their state. The Colorado members spoke about the cornerstone “Justice for Janitors” campaign, which they started. Maria Vargas, retired SEIU 10 and key leader of the “Justice for Janitors” campaign in Colorado, spoke to the audience about the need to organize and win for all working families.
We heard from numerous members from across SEIU about their struggles within their locals. The members spoke about foreclosures, inaccessibility of higher education, state deficits, budget cuts, decrease in staff and the inability to offer high quality services. However, the members also spoke to the need to come together and fight for justice for working families.
Over the past four years we have accomplished a lot and we should be extremely proud. Together, we helped lead the way for healthcare reform, extending healthcare to 30 million Americans. We united to stand up against the attack on workers. In Montreal, students fought college increases in tuition. We charged the Capitol in Wisconsin to stop them from gutting worker’s collective bargaining rights. We won in Ohio by repealing SB5. We have grown over 292,000 workers over the past four years by organizing them into SEIU. Together we united to fight against unfair and unethical immigration policies. We brought thousands of members together in the Member Leadership and Action Conference. In April 2011, we engaged in the Fight for the Fair Economy. We have had over a thousand actions over the past year calling for corporate accountability. We joining alongside the Occupy Movement to get people back to work.
Mary Kay spoke to the delegation about the achievements our union has made and the challenges that lie ahead. She spoke to the vision for the future and the need to fight together.
Tom Woodruf, SEIU Vice President, spoke about income equality and what it means for working families. He highlighted that Wall Street bonuses are up 17%, number of millionaires up 16%. As union density decreases, income inequality increases. However, the opposite happens when union density increases. 2012 IRS Data shows that there was $288 billion in new income, however, $268 Billion of that went to the 1%. The solution to income equality is organizing workers. Rise Up and Reach Out – We Can Take it Back for our Kids and Grandkids! If we fail to do this, we will be the first generation in the history of our country to leave our kids and grandkids in a worse situation than we were given.
President Obama called in to speak with us. Mary Kay told the President that we are making plans to double our efforts to back his reelection. President Obama said, “I love SEIU.” He continued to say that job creation is increasing and USA job manufacturing is coming back. He then said that, “We have a lot of work to do, we need to put people back to work.” However, the hard work is paying off, but we need to fight back, like we did in Ohio and Wisconsin. “We need to make sure everyone has access to healthcare and don’t go broke if they get sick. SEIU knows how important this is to everyone,” the President said. “I just want you guys to know that this election represents a clear choice. We can’t win if company’s play by their own rules.” President Obama stated, “We need to move forward with a broad-based strategy for growth that benefits everyone. “SEIU has been good friends, just not allies. I hope everyone is fired up and ready to go.”
The Executive Vice President’s of the three divisions (Public Services, Property Services and Healthcare) discussed their blueprints for change.
Resolutions were presented and voted on. Kathy Jellison, spoke in support of the “Secure Retirement for the 99% in the United States and Puerto Rico” resolution. Neal Bisno, called the questions to pass the resolutions.
Mary Kay Henry was nominated and elected as the International President of SEIU. Eliseo Medina was was nominated and elected at the International Secretary-Treasuerer. SEIU 668 Secretary-Treasurer Roni Green nominated Eileen Kirlin for Executive Vice President for the SEIU Public Sector. Eileen was elected as an International Executive Vice President, along with five other International Executive Vice Presidents. Sister Kirlin’s son gave an extremely touching speech on behalf of his mother, who lost her voice earlier in the day.
The youth delegation, the Millennial Program, met in the evening to discuss how we can unite young members in our locals. Purple Gold, the young adult caucus from 1199 New York, spoke to the group on how they built thier young adult group and how it has succeed. Our 668 youth delegation, including Jason Reinhardt, Najamah Gilmore, Alura Defrancesco, Drew Resele and Leah Wright left energized to plan SEIU 668′s youth summit.
“I don’t need a baton passed to me to make a difference.” – Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke to the Millennial Program, on how it is our responsibility to grab the torch of social justice and not wait for it to be passed on to us. “Young adults must have an adult’s vision with youthful energy to lead adults.”
Lead. Unite. Fight. We are the 99%.
Some highlights of the day:
- SEIU 668 members, Lawerence Funck, Steve Jarrell, Karen Arms and Lisa Simmrell led the pack of several thousand activists on the way to Wells Fargo.
- SEIU 668 members Maria Delgado, Cheryl Reeves and Roxanne Hoag marched to Wells Fargo with original SEIU 668 members, previous SEIU President Andy Stern and previous SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger.
- SEIU 668 members discussed at the general session how they fit into SEIU’s story over the past four years.
- There was a very moving ‘In Memoriam’ of SEIU members and leaders who have passed.
- The national anthem’s of the United States of America, Canada and Puerto Rico were played
- Secretary-Treasurer Roni Green spoke to the delegation to nominate Eileen Kirlin as Executive Vice President of SEIU.
- President Kathy Jellison spoke in favor of a resolution.
- President Barack Obama called in, which received rousing applause from the attendees.
- Reverend Jesse Jackson visit.