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SEIU Organizing Department Records

 Collection
Identifier: LR001888
The SEIU Organizing Department records document the programs and activities of the Service Employee International Union’s Organizing Department from approximately 1985 to 1992. The papers were created during the tenure of SEIU President John Sweeney. The collection contains affiliation agreements, newspaper clippings, correspondence, memorandum, handwritten notes, flyers, brochures, statistics, surveys, agendas, meeting minutes, organizing plans, subsidy requests and recommendations, budgets, buttons, posters, agreements, a cassette tape, reports, expense reports, training materials, organizational charts, speeches, photographs, questionnaire, and anti-union literature.

The vast majority of the records in this collection are from the office of Andy Stern, the assistant to the president for Organizing and Field Services. After his tenure of leadership with the Organizing Department, Stern became the International President of SEIU. He held the presidency from 1996 to 2010.

Records from this collection chronicle the expansion of SEIU through organizing campaigns and affiliations, during a period when American organized labor was contracting. Records in this collection provide insight into the planning and strategies behind SEIU’s organizing campaigns, which led to SEIU growth. It also reveals Andy Stern’s development as a labor leader before ascending as SEIU president.
Series Description: Series I: Internal Organizing Files, 1975-1993 This series contains records relating to the internal functions of the SEIU Organizing Department. Many of the materials relate to management and training of employees. Other materials relate to budgets, subsidies, membership statistics, conferences, and opposition literature. Materials include reports, memorandum, correspondence, training materials, and statistics.

Series II: Local Union Files, 1984-1991 This series contains records relating to affiliations and subsidies of Local SEIU Unions. Materials include agreements, correspondence, memorandum, agreement negotiations, newsletters, and constitutions.

Series III: Organizing Campaign Files, 1978-1992 This series contains records relating to specific organizing campaigns of the SEIU Organizing Department. Campaigns included in this series are the Justice for Janitors campaign in various locations, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Beverly Enterprises, healthcare organizing nationwide, municipal employee organizing in various locales, and university organizing. Materials in this series include correspondence, memorandum, brochures, flyers, plans, budgets, agreements, statistics and reports. Please note this series also contains some unique items such as buttons, posters, a map and a cassette tape.

Series IV: Regional and State Council Files, 1990-1994 This series contains internal documents relating to regional and state councils that governed local unions. The majority of records relate to subsidy requests and recommendations. Materials include memorandum, subsidy requests, proposals, financial reports, constitutions and correspondence.

Dates

  • 1970 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1985 - 1992

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.

Extent

7 Linear Feet (7 SB)

Abstract

The 1980s was a difficult time for American Labor. The American economy was in recession and national politics were not hospitable to organized labor. Yet, SEIU grew by 500,000 members. By 1992, SEIU reached the million-member mark. The membership achievements of SEIU can be largely credited to the efforts of its Organizing Department. The primary responsibility of the SEIU Organizing Department was to organize the unorganized. The SEIU Organizing Department sought to gain new membership for the International through targeting building service, healthcare, clerical and public sector employees. Additionally, the Organizing Department gained new SEIU members through the affiliation of formerly independent organizations and unions.

Records from this collection chronicle the expansion of SEIU through organizing campaigns and affiliations, during a period when American organized labor was contracting. The collection contains affiliation agreements, newspaper clippings, correspondence, memorandum, handwritten notes, flyers, brochures, statistics, surveys, agendas, meeting minutes, organizing plans, subsidy requests and recommendations, budgets, buttons, posters, agreements, a cassette tape, reports, expense reports, training materials, organizational charts, speeches, photographs, questionnaire, and anti-union literature. These records provide insight into the planning and strategies behind SEIU’s organizing campaigns, which led to SEIU growth.

History

The 1980s was a difficult time for American Labor. The American economy was in recession and national politics were not hospitable to organized labor. Accordingly, union membership fell to less than 20% of the workforce and the NLRB reported that it conducted only one-half of the elections it had once conducted in the 1970s. Within this dismal environment for organized labor, SEIU rallied and its membership grew.

In 1980, John Sweeney was elected a s SEIU International President. During his tenure, SEIU grew by 500,000 members. This growth was so pronounced, that the U.S. Bureau of National Affairs announced that SEIU was the fastest growing union of the 1980s and it became the fourth largest union in the AFL-CIO. By 1992, SEIU reached the million-member mark. The membership achievements of SEIU can be largely credited to the efforts of its Organizing Department.

The primary responsibility of the SEIU Organizing Department was to organize the unorganized. The SEIU Organizing Department sought to gain new membership for the International through targeting building service, healthcare, clerical and public sector employees. Additionally, the Organizing Department gained new SEIU members through the affiliation of formerly independent organizations and unions.

Major campaigns for the SEIU Organizing Department during the 1980s and early 1990s included the Beverly, Justice for Janitors, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Collectively, these campaigns had mixed results. Beverly Enterprises, a large nursing home chain, proved difficult to organize. Yet, SEIU found support from the NLRB and gained considerable members from Beverly employees. Justice for Janitors was an organizing campaign that targeted building service employees in large cities throughout the nation. All cities did not find success, but the campaign increased membership and helped bring SEIU back to its roots of organizing building service employees. The Blue Cross Blue Shield campaign sought to organize clerical employees at the insurance company. SEIU had a major win against Blue Cross Blue Shield when it achieved a neutrality agreement with the company; the agreement was the first of its kind in the insurance industry.

Arrangement

The records are arranged in four series- Series I (Boxes 1-3) is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically by year. Series II (Box 4) is arranged numerically by local union number. Series III (Boxes 5-7) is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically by year. Series IV (Box 7) is arranged alphabetically by council and then chronologically by year.

Acquisition

The Organizing Department of the Service Employees International Union deposited its records to the Walter P. Reuther Library in 1997.

Related Materials

SEIU Executive Office: John Sweeney Records, SEIU Executive Office Microfilm Records, SEIU Executive Office: William McFetridge Records, SEIU Executive Office: David Sullivan Records, SEIU Executive Office: George Hardy Records, SEIU Historical Records, SEIU/International Jewelry Workers’ Union Records, SEIU International Vice-Presidents Records, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer’s Office: International Executive Records, SEIU Local 32B-32J Records, SEIU Research Department Historical Records, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer’s Office: Constitutions and By-Laws Records, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer’s Office: Affiliate Officers Records.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Jaclyn Kinney on March 3, 2011.
Title
Guide to the SEIU Organizing Department Records
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Jaclyn Kinney.
Date
2011-03-03
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA