SEIU held its 25th Annual Convention in Denver, CO May 28-30, and more than 2,000 members from the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada attended, including a delegation of 322 members of 1199SEIU.
The convention’s theme was “Lead, Fight, Unite and Win” and brought together workers from every industry that SEIU represents – from healthcare to law enforcement to building services. Speaker after speaker called on members to build new levels of solidarity and community strength to help re-elect President Barack Obama and to beat back the right-wing forces that are attempting to destroy the foundational programs of working peoples’ lives like public education, healthcare, Medicare and Social Security.
“It’s really motivating to see that we can all be united,” said 1199er Marilyn Ralat Albernas, an RN at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, FL. “It gets me angry and makes me want to go out and fight and tell people we need things like the Affordable Care Act.”
Discussions during the convention’s Health Care Division Day centered on organizing victories like those throughout the Hospital of America Corp. chain of hospitals, the need for reform, and the disasters that merciless state budget cuts have caused in healthcare systems around the country. Former 1199SEIU President Dennis Rivera spoke about the tremendous victory for national healthcare that was the passage of the Affordable Care Act and how that victory now hangs in the balance as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decides its fate.
Nurses spoke about short staffing and their fear of the draconian budget cuts that would become reality if President Obama is not re-elected. Home healthcare workers spoke about underfunding in their industry and the struggle to maintain enough hours to earn a livable wage. The common thread through every speaker’s remarks was the call to fight back.
1199SEIU President George Gresham gave an impassioned speech, reminding members of the progress we have made as a movement and that what unites us is far more important that what divides us.
“We as workers are here to say we are never going back,” said Gresham. “They are never going back to the days when race divided us, when sexual preference determined how you were treated and where you came from mattered.”
Convention delegates unanimously re-elected Pres. Mary Kay Henry to a four-year term as president of SEIU. Also unanimously re-elected were Eliseo Medina as International Secretary Treasurer. Kirk Adams, Gerry Hudson, Eileen Kirlin, Valarie Long and Tom Woodruff were unanimously re-elected as Executive Vice Presidents. Mike Fishman, President of SEIU Local 32BJ, was unanimously elected to serve as the newest International Executive Vice President.
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