20140829-Labor-Day-Facebook3-310px-graphic-for-Mary-Kay-Henry-SEIU.jpgThe weekend and Labor Day are important times to reflect on and honor the courage of generations of working men and women--the people who brought us Labor Day and countless other benefits won by the labor movement, from better wages to improved working conditions.

SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry adds that it is also a "pivotal time to take stock of where our families, our economy and our democracy are heading."

In an op-ed for The Nation, Henry writes that we face an "incredible challenge":

Half of all Americans now make less than $15 an hour. Of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in America, eight are service sector jobs. Service sector jobs are the heartbeat of our economy and our communities, from the folks who care for the elderly and our children, to those who cook and serve our food to those who clean and secure our offices. Moving our economy forward must include making service jobs into good jobs with wages that you can raise a family on.

From home care workers to adjunct professors and security officers to fast food workers, people are uniting in the largest, most determined movement for working families that modern America has ever seen. And we're winning:

All told, 6.7 million workers have achieved better pay since fast food workers began striking less than two years ago, either through states or cities moving to raise minimum wages or through collective bargaining. These brave workers are building the momentum to raise wages and get our economy roaring again.

Yet, Henry notes, our prosperity depends not just on economic justice, but the fundamental American principles of liberty and justice for all.

The taking of Mike Brown's life in Ferguson, Missouri only weeks ago reminds us that social and economic justice must go hand in hand for America to thrive. To solve these issues, we need opportunities for all Americans to fully participate in our economy and improve the quality of life for their families. That's why we must also fix our broken immigration system and uphold and protect civil rights and democratic participation for all Americans, not just the wealthy few.

Read Mary Kay Henry's Labor Day 2014 op-ed here.

Enjoy a happy and safe Labor Day. For those who have the day off, best wishes for enjoyable celebrations with families and friends--and for those who are on the clock, thank you for the hard work that keeps America moving.

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Bill Shimer

PHOTO: In many ways, adjuncts like Bill Shimer have more in common with fast food workers than with their tenured colleagues, facing very low pay and no benefits or job security of any kind.

Bill Shimer, Adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University

Northeastern University adjuncts voted to join SEIU on May 15, joining part-time faculty at Tufts and Lesley universities who have formed unions in the past year.


Being a college professor was once the embodiment of a good middle class job. But not anymore. In many ways, adjuncts like Bill Shimer have more in common with fast food workers than with their tenured colleagues, facing very low pay and no benefits or job security of any kind.

Like so many adjuncts, Bill strings together part-time jobs at multiple schools in the Boston area to make ends meet. He often has to dip into his savings just to pay the bills and the idea of going out to dinner is a distant memory. Still he feels lucky to have any savings at all unlike adjuncts he knows other departments who struggle to afford food and rent in the summers without any paychecks coming in.

Without a set schedule from semester to semester, it's not unusual to get almost no time to prepare for a new class. Northeastern University recently asked him on a Friday to teach a new course starting the following Monday, and told him to come early that day to pick up the textbook. He lives with the very real and recurring fear that he won't have a job next semester.

Bill describes feeling isolated from the school and his colleagues. "These indignities made me feel worthless and hopeless, like a failure in life and work. I often wondered where I had gone wrong."

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10:41 AM Eastern - Thursday, August 28, 2014

We Won't Stop Marching #default

One year ago this week, tens of thousands of people from all corners of the country--including many SEIU members--journeyed to Washington to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That epochal event--the scene of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech--took place August 28, 1963.

50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Over the past year, we've also marked five decades since the assassination of President Kennedy, Freedom Summer 1964, the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other touchstone moments of the Civil Rights Movement. We have also seen that the causes for which so many marched and some died remain unfinished works.

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4:05 PM Eastern - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Victory for 27,000 Minnesota Home Care Workers #default

27,000 home care workers are united in SEIU Healthcare Minnesota after years of fighting for a voice on the job. Today, home care workers, their clients and families celebrated an overwhelming victory.

27,000 home care workers are united in SEIU Healthcare Minnesota

"Despite every obstacle put in our way, we stuck to our promise to keep fighting until we were able to exercise our democratic right to let home care workers decide for themselves whether to form a union," said Sumer Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul. "When given the right to decide for ourselves, home care workers clearly are ready for change and with our union will have a unified voice to fight for better conditions for ourselves and better care for those we serve."

The Bureau of Mediation Services tallied the votes earlier in the day and certified that workers voted decisively join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota.

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1:25 PM Eastern - Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tragedy Shows Airlines Should Use Influence--for the Public Good #default

When Ulbita Ramirez said farewell to her partner of 23 years on February 21, neither of them knew that it was their final farewell.

Cesar Valenzuela was killed that day working at LAX airport for a contractor called Menzies Aviation. He was thrown from the baggage truck he was driving, which rolled over him, leaving him dead. The truck had no seatbelt.

Today, the California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued citations related to the tragic death of Cesar Valenzuela. They found that his seatbelt wasn't working, that the company discouraged the use of seatbelts and that proper inspections weren't carried out.

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2:16 PM Eastern - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Houston's Underpaid Workers Talk High Costs of Low Wages #default

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Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez shared a special breakfast in Houston this morning with janitors, fast food, domestic and restaurant workers as part of a five city tour in advance of Labor Day. The breakfast was held at the private Northside Houston residence of SEIU Texas member and Houston janitor Austraberta Rodriguez.

As the group shared a meal, janitors, fast food, domestic and restaurant workers also shared stories of their daily struggles to survive and raise families on low wages.

"It shouldn't have to take two strikes to receive respect and dignity," said Rodriguez, who's been a janitor for more than 30 years. "Before my co-workers and I went on strike in 2005 to form our union and stand up for good jobs, I didn't know what it was like to take to take a day off with pay. Everyone who works hard deserves to be able to feed a family and put money in the gas tank."

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Two months ago, a group of airport workers, passengers with disabilities and their allies raised their voices together at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.

Today (Monday August 18), the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the airport, is discussing how to address these problems.

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1:07 PM Eastern - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Minnesota Homecare Workers Rising: "I Am Only One Person, What Can I Do?" #default

Shaquonica JohnsonShaquonica Johnson of Brooklyn Park, Minn., wanted to work in the health care field for most of her life. As a teenager, she decided to go into nursing to help those around her live healthier, longer lives.

As pursues that degree, she has come to see how home care also allows people facing significant health challenges to keep their independence and dignity.

"I watched my own uncle go through this after heart surgery and thanks to a PCA [personal care attendant], he remained in his home, in control of his life, until he passed away," she said.

As a PCA herself now, she considers the program a "blessing" - when it works. "I help people who live with disabilities live as productively and independently as possible," says Shaquonica. "But in my years as a PCA, I see that most of the time it's not working very well because of the high turnover and the lack of training opportunities."

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2:12 PM Eastern - Friday, August 8, 2014

Home Care Workers: We're Ready to Fight for $15! #default

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Home care workers across the country are uniting to raise wages and improve care. In July, union and nonunion home care workers across the country showed they are more determined than ever to build a movement to fight for $15 and make the long term care system better for everyone.

Home care workers in Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, and Washington brought people together with a "BBQ on My Budget," highlighting how hard it is to get by on low wages. Attendees pledged to Fight for $15 for home care workers and to make sure home care is an issue talked about in their communities and in the coming election.

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9:04 AM Eastern - Friday, August 8, 2014

Healthcare Law Tax Credits Still Alive and Well #default

What a busy summer 2014 has turned out to be! Our work to protect, defend and educate our patients and communities about the Affordable Care Act is more important than ever.

I want to make sure that nurses know that tax credits to help people pay for their healthcare coverage are alive and well despite a divided ruling from a panel in the DC Court of Appeals in July. A similar panel in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond came to the opposite conclusion and upheld the financial assistance that is improving the healthcare of millions in federal marketplace states. These lawsuits--along with the House GOP's lawsuit against President Obama--are just extremists' latest desperate attacks on the healthcare law and the millions of American families benefiting from it.

It continues to be important that we speak out about grounding women's healthcare in sound policy and not ideology in the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling. Last week the Obama administration said that employers who stop covering birth control must disclose the change to their employees.

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