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Op-Ed: SEIU Won’t Be Better Off Under New Leader

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On Monday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) kicked off its international convention in Philadelphia. For the first time in over a decade, the union elected a new president. But members hoping for a change in the status quo will be sorely disappointed.

As one of the most high-profile unions in the country, the SEIU has used its platform to push for policies like the recent $20 minimum wage hike for fast-food workers in California, which led to countless layoffs, skyrocketing menu prices, and business closures. But the SEIU’s threat to the well-being of workers isn’t isolated to external policies.

Under the leadership of president Mary Kay Henry, the SEIU developed a track record of promoting controversial leaders, fostering brutal work environments, and even union-busting.

April Verrett – Henry’s newly elected successor – is primed to continue Henry’s legacy of dishonor.

Verrett most recently was the secretary treasurer of the SEIU. Prior to her role at headquarters, she was the president of SEIU Local 2015, where she was accused of union-busting by her own staff.

Under Verrett’s leadership, Local 2015 – one of the largest SEIU locals in California – found itself in a contract battle with its staff union, Chapter 15 of the Pacific Northwest Staff Union. The unionized employees went on strike, alleging that Local 2015 leadership was willing to “deploy union-busting boss tactics typically seen by anti-union companies and their executives.”

Union members filed multiple unfair labor practice charges accusing Verrett and management of surveillance, assault, and intimidation. The staff union argued that Local 2015’s “culture of toxicity” led to “high turnover, understaffing, and mental and physical health issues.”

Things didn’t improve when Verrett moved to the international union. Staff members represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) went on strike against the international in 2023, accusing Verrett and Henry of using “corporate tricks and delay tactics” to avoid bargaining on a new labor contract.

Verrett’s questionable leadership is not surprising when you consider her mentor. Under President Henry, the SEIU’s largest local, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (UHW), settled a “contentious” sexual-harassment lawsuit filed against the union by a former union employee. The lawsuit and subsequent testimony depict a union “plagued by sexual misconduct scandals.”

Some of the top union officials mentioned in the lawsuit continue to hold high-ranking positions at the union. It appears Henry knew about the accusations and neglected to take appropriate action. Staffers claimed their attempts to report misconduct were ignored.

Unfortunately, the scandals don’t stop there. Other prominent SEIU locals have been accused of discrimination, harassment, and an overall disregard for employee well-being.

The SEIU should have been looking to elect a new leader who would drop the “do as I say not as I do” mentality and inspire much-needed change at the union. Unfortunately, Verrett’s leadership will only be more of the same shameful status quo.

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