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Winning a voice for healthcare workers


The largest labor victory since the UAW organized in Flint, MI.


SEIU's history as a healthcare union began when SEIU Local 250 (now SEIU UHW) started organizing San Francisco nurses in the 1930s. Today, SEIU is the largest healthcare union in the country with 1.2 million nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers. For the past seventy years, SEIU Healthcare members have had one top priority: quality patient care. SEIU members work hard to wiSEIU's history as a healthcare union began when SEIU Local 250 (now SEIU UHW) started organizing San Francisco nurses in the 1930s.n fair wages, benefits, and a voice at the table to speak up for their patients, clients, and consumers. Every victory for front line healthcare workers has also been a victory for the men, women, and children they care for.

In 1998, the 130,000 members of the New York City-based Local 1199 voted to affiliate with SEIU to become the largest and strongest healthcare union in North America. Building on 1199's own progressive history, SEIU's healthcare division became an even more powerful voice for healthcare workers and patients

Beverly Enterprises

In 1996, nursing home workers at Beverly Enterprises--the nation's largest for-profit nursing home chain--went on a three day strike in Pennsylvania after futile attempts to bargain a new contract. Beverly's response? "Permanently replacing" 500 striking workers. SEIU members in Pennsylvania stood together, protesting and filing lawsuits to reinstate their coworkers. One year later, they won: a federal court ordered Beverly to reinstate the 500 workers and Beverly agreed to a new four year contract. By 2004, confrontation turned into cooperation as Pennsylvania SEIU members and Beverly launched a groundbreaking partnership that gave hundreds of workers the freedom to choose a union without intimidation. Together, they also formed "Pennsylvanians for Quality Care," which improves the care clients receive by providing training and education for more than 200 certified nursing assistants.

Los Angeles Home Care Workers

Home care workers deliver the essential care and helping hands that mean seniors and people with disabilities can chose to live independently at home, rather than in a nursing home. These men and women are the steady source of care for an Alzheimer's patient, or the person who helps a consumer with a disability get out the door to work. Homecare workers assist with daily needs such as bathing, eating, and dressing. In many states, however, these hardworking women and men earn poverty wages, have no sick time, do not have health insurance, and have no access to professional training. That was the situation in Los Angeles in the 1980s when home care workers realized they needed to take a stand.

Thousands of home care workers in California came together to win state legislation ensuring the right to have a voice on the job and to negotiate with their employers over wages and working conditions. In 1992, the California legislature passed this historic legislation that would allow home care workers to have a say in improving the quality of their work and their lives. But Los Angeles County refused to give permission because the disability community feared the legislation would lead to worse care for clients. By reaching out to members of the disability community and building coalitions, Los Angeles homecare workers addressed their concerns and became a united force for change. Los Angeles home care workers won the right to organize in 1997. In the biggest labor election in over fifty years, more than 70,000 home care workers in Los Angeles County voted to join SEIU in 1999.

Catholic Healthcare West

In the 1990's, healthcare workers at Catholic Healthcare West--then the third biggest Catholic hospital network in the nation-- were struggling in the face of short-staffing, cuts in services, and a lack of commitment to the quality of patient care. CHW workers had enough: they had gone into healthcare because of a higher calling and to put the needs of patients first. Healthcare workers began reaching out to key leaders in the Catholic Church to ask for their support and ensure the dignity and respect of all workers. Eventually, even the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Cardinal of Los Angeles stood with workers. This outreach led to a landmark election where more than 10,000 healthcare workers chose to unite with SEIU, free from intimidation or harassment.


In 2010, hospital workers reached a historic accord with Hospital Corporation of America, the largest for-profit hospital system in the world, ensuring that hospital workers could hold free and fair elections. In less than a year, more than 6,000 healthcare workers at 13 HCA-affiliated hospitals in Texas, Florida, and Kansas City voted to unite with SEIU. Today, more than 22,000 healthcare workers at HCA in California, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, and Texas are now united in SEIU.