Wrong Union For the Job SEIU wants to lead a campaign against the 1%. Critics wonder if it can.
For several decades, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has talked—and typically acted—more ambitiously than most American unions, especially about organizing and politics. It has succeeded and failed with those ambitions, bringing both creativity (such as the Justice for Janitors campaigns) and injury (such as the break from the AFL-CIO) to the cause of American workers and their unions.
At the union’s quadrennial convention in May, SEIU’s leaders laid out broad plans for the next few years. Building on its own Fight for a Fair Economy projects, SEIU aims to launch a new movement against social and economic inequality. Inspired by the militant union movements of industrializing countries like Brazil, SEIU envisions a more politically cohesive alliance than its coalitions of the past with environmental, civil rights, immigrant and community groups. The union also intends to educate and mobilize its 1.9 million members, turning 10 percent of them into active “member organizers” and 1 percent into “member leaders.”