Rocío Sáenz has been fighting for immigrant, worker, and racial justice for more than three decades. After coming to the U.S. from Mexico, she worked low-wage jobs until she became a union organizer in 1988. Within two years she became one of the key organizers of the famous 1990 "Justice for Janitors" strike in Los Angeles, which LAPD unsuccessfully attempted to quell. No one believed these immigrant janitors could win, but win they did. The strike taught Sáenz a lesson that has become a core belief. When workers come together and courageously take action, they gain the power they need to make positive changes in the workplace and in our society. Only through unions, Sáenz believes, can workers address structural problems, from low wages to racism to environmental degradation.
Since then Sáenz has spent the last three decades helping underpaid workers--janitors, security officers, airport workers, fast food workers and others--win better lives through Justice for Janitors-style campaigning. First elected SEIU Executive Vice President in 2013, she leads SEIU's 386,000-member Property Services Division. She heads SEIU's work to create a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. And she oversees the Property Services section of UNI Global Union, which has more than 200 affiliates throughout the world. From 2017-2019, Sáenz directed SEIU’s successful Fight for $15 campaign throughout the country.
Prior to becoming Executive Vice President, Sáenz led SEIU Local 615 in Boston, where she was elected President in 2003. In 2002, she organized a month-long strike that saw thousands of janitors in Boston win dramatically better wages and working conditions and drew widespread support from the media, clergy, politicians and community groups.