Service Employees International Union

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The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a union headquartered in Washington, DC that represents, for example, janitors and nursing home workers. According to its website, it "is the largest and fastest growing union in North America, focused on uniting workers in the key service sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide. The 1.9 million members united in SEIU across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico work in four service industry" divisions: hospital workers, long-term care workers, public services (government workers, child care providers), and property services (janitors).[1] It is a member of the Business Ethics Network and Health Care for America Now.

Workers represented

Hospital workers:
"SEIU is the nation’s largest union of health care workers representing over 900,000 caregivers and hospital employees, including 110,000 nurses and 40,000 doctors in public, private, and non-profit medical institutions."

Long-term care workers:
"SEIU is the largest union of long-term care workers in the United States. 350,000 home care- and 150,000 nursing home workers provide vital services in both facility and private home settings for our nation’s seniors and the disabled."

Public service workers:
"SEIU is the second largest union of public service employees with 850,000 local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers – 49,000 of which joined SEIU in early 2005 in one of the largest union elections in U.S. history."

Property service workers:
"SEIU is the largest property services union, with 225,000 workers who protect and clean commercial and residential office buildings, and is the largest security union, with 50,000 private security officers and public safety personnel." [1]


In 1921, seven janitor unions united into the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEIU). The current name, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was adopted in 1968. "Chicago-based Local 1, SEIU’s first local union, is still organizing janitors and security officers today."

Membership grew from 625,000 in 1980 to over 1.8 million today. When most organized labor was shrinking, "SEIU was aggressively uniting workers’ strength – largely in the fast-growing service industries."

After the 2004 presidential elections, it split from the AFL-CIO. On September 27, 2005, SEIU, along with 6 other unions representing 5.5 million workers—the Teamsters, UNITE HERE, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Laborers, the Carpenters and the United Farm Workers—formed the Change to Win Federation (CTW) "to develop joint strategic organizing campaigns to help ensure that workers, not just executives and stockholders, benefit from today's global economy." Anna Burger, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, was elected CTW federation chair – making her the first woman in U.S. history to head a labor federation. [2]

Political contributions

SEIU gave $1,447,833 to federal candidates in the 2006 election through its political action committee - 91% to Democrats and 7% to Republicans. [3]


It spent $1,350,678 for lobbying in 2007. $470,000 went to outside lobbying firms with the remainder being spent using in-house lobbyists. [4]


Top leadership:[5]

Critical Books

  • Steve Early, The Civil Wars In U.S. Labor: Birth of a New Workers’ Movement or Death Throes of the Old? (Haymarket Books, 2011). Review


1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 730-7000


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Fast Facts, Service Employees International Union, accessed May 2008.
  2. SEIU History, Service Employees International Union, accessed May 2008.
  3. 2006 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed May 2008.
  4. SEIU lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed May 2008.
  5. Leader Bios, Service Employees International Union, accessed May 2008.

External articles