CHAIR, CHANGE TO WIN (2005 - 2010);
FORMER INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY-TREASURER
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, CTW, CLC
Anna Burger served as Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU from 2001 to 2010. She was the first chair of Change to Win, established in 2005, and the first woman to head an American labor federation. She was named one of Washingtonian Magazine's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2006 and 2009.
The 2 million-member SEIU is focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide. It is the largest union of healthcare and property service workers and second-largest public employee union in North America. Today, SEIU is the most diverse union in America, with a leadership that reflects its ranks: more than half of SEIU members are represented by local unions led by women or people of color.
Burger began her career with the union in 1972 as a rank-and-file Pennsylvania state caseworker and union activist. She was elected in 1983 as SEIU Local 668's first female president. Although she was a familiar sight on picket lines, anti-war protests and feminist rallies, Burger still managed to surprise her union sisters and brothers when during her maternity leave, she showed up with her three-week old daughter Erin on the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol to risk arrest and challenge Governor Richard L. Thornburgh on his threats to block voter registration efforts. The governor backed down.
After a stint running Pennsylvania's statewide political program, Burger became SEIU's national field director and, in 1995, she ran John Sweeney's successful campaign for president of the AFL-CIO. After negotiating the merger with 1199 NY, uniting health care workers into SEIU she was elected Executive Vice President of SEIU. In 2001, she was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU.
In 2005, Burger shattered the glass ceiling when she became the first woman to head up an American labor federation, the newly formed Change to Win. Founded by seven major unions representing six million workers, Change to Win rededicated itself to organizing to grow workers' industry strength.
Burger is a longtime strategist who oversees SEIU's national political operations. In 2008, Burger led SEIU's grassroots election work, which helped elect President Barack Obama and brought unprecedented victories for pro-worker candidates across the country. In the largest mobilization by any single organization in the history of U.S. politics, more than 13,000 SEIU members, staff and local leaders worked in battleground states and key House, Senate and state races to bring change to Washington, D.C. and to restore the American Dream for working families.
Burger has also played a critical role in developing the infrastructure of the progressive movement by partnering with and helping develop organizations and initiatives to deliver a sustained presence of progressive leaders at all levels of government.
Burger has participated in a number of White House task force and advisory council meetings on the nation's economic recovery and rebuilding the American Dream. An outspoken voice on the critical role unions can play to restore economic fairness in America, Burger was named in February 2009 to the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board--a diverse group of economists, academics, business and labor leaders tasked with helping to guide the president's economic recovery policies.
Breaking with tradition is nothing new for Burger; in the 1970s - 80s she was out front on picket lines, anti-war protests and feminist rallies. Throughout her career, she has pushed labor to deepen its commitment to equality for all. She played a significant role in SEIU's recognition of choice as a major issue for women's health and she has been a passionate advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.
Burger resides in Washington, D.C., with her husband Earl F. Gohl Jr. Their daughter, Erin Burger Gohl, is a graduate of Smith College.