Civil Rights

SEIU Leaders, Members Call on Minnesota Legislature to Pass Marriage Bill

St. Paul, MN – As the Minnesota House of Representative prepares to vote on HF 1054 Thursday, leaders and members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are calling on legislators in both the House and the Senate to vote yes to legalize the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

In an oped published in today’s Pioneer Press, Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, joined other labor leaders in calling on the Minnesota legislature to pass the marriage bills this session.

“We believe in a fair Minnesota,” said Gulley. “A Minnesota that values love, commitment, and responsibility. Everyday hard-working Minnesotans strive to build a state that is inclusive and prosperous for all, with no exceptions.”

SEIU members were active in the 2012 efforts to defeat the marriage amendment which would have permanently limited the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota. Javier Morillo, President of SEIU local 26, served as a board member for Minnesotans United for All Families during the 2012 campaign.

“Our members have put hundreds of hours into door-knocking, phone-banking, doing whatever they could to secure the freedom to marry in Minnesota,” said Morillo. “Our members know that to deny justice and freedom to some people, simply because of who they are, is not how we do things in Minnesota. Our legislators need to pass this bill so that our core Minnesota values of fairness, freedom and family are represented in our state’s marriage laws.”

“All of our members should be afforded the same rights and responsibilities under the law, particularly when it comes to employment benefits,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “So many same-sex couples and their families are not given the same rights when it comes to the healthcare we provide to our members, simply because our state does not recognize those families. Our LGBT brothers and sisters deserve the same protections under the law, and we can move toward that with this marriage bill.”

Mitch Azarcon, president of the SEIU Lavender caucus, testified at the House and Senate committees in support of the bill. She is a surgical core tech at Rochester Methodist Hospital and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

“To me, marriage is about love and commitment,” said Azarcon. “The vow of ‘to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,’ is a vow that should not be afforded to only between one man and one woman. It should be for all couples, and that includes gay and lesbian couples who are willing to make that same commitment with their partners. As a labor leader, I believe in the dignity and worth of all workers, and I will continue to fight for a just and humane society.”Rainbow Flag in the Sky

“As a state, we’ve spent years talking about why marriage matters so much,” said Gulley. “And we’ve affirmed what we already knew to be true: Marriage is about the love, commitment and responsibility that two people share. This year, we have the chance to strengthen thousands of families by extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Now is the time. This is the year. Let’s make Minnesota the 12th state to grant the freedom to marry.”



 SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, child care, and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings.  The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns.  By building the political involvement of approximately 30,000 SEIU members throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota.

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“We Are Minnesota” Rally and Day of Action

“No member of this state shall be disfranchised or deprived of any rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof”  — Minnesota Bill of Rights

SEIU is urging all of it’s members to vote NO on the voter restriction and anti-marriage amendments this fall. We believe they will have unintended consequences.

Why do unions care about these amendments?   We care because unions are about the dignity of all people.  We are a movement that is about dignity and respect.  We fight for the dignity of our workers and respect for the work each member does.  We stand for civil and human rights for all people, because we understand that what diminishes one, diminishes all.

The purpose of this demonstration of the labor community’s support to defeat the freedom-limiting amendments regarding marriage and voter ID.  Provide tools for attendees to take action, from immediately following the event through November 6.  Although labor-sponsored, all are welcome.

Overview of Event

Meet at Rice Park (109 4th St. West,St. Paul,MN55102)

  • 12:30     Gather:  Live music, crowd mixing; information tables for amendments
  • 1:00        Program:   Welcome: National Anthem, recognize distinguished guests; Union leader on why we are here; Brief testimonials by rank and file members on both issues; Musical guests; Mass tweet/Facebook posting; Main speech from political leader; Call to action; Closing sing-along
  • 1:45        Follow-up:  Sign-up opportunities for volunteer action (phoning, door-knocking, conversation training)
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Voter ID Amendment isn’t “A Simple Thing”

The Voter Restriction Amendment isn’t simple at all. It’s a complete overhaul of an election system that works. It creates an unfunded mandate on local governments, raising property taxes. And it places hurdles in front of eligible Minnesota voters, especially members of the military, seniors and young voters. The campaign working to defeat this amendment has put together a video to explain why you should vote “No.” Click on the story to watch the video.

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Fairness & Justice For ALL: SEIU on the Forefront of Advocacy

SEIU members have provided a voice for the voiceless for ninety years. From our beginnings as one of the country’s first racially integrated unions to our historic support for marriage equality in 2004 to our work to win justice for immigrants, SEIU has a long history of standing up and speaking out for equality. “There’s a motto we have in the labor movement: ‘An Injury to One is An Injury to All,'” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “Across this country, right-wing Republican politicians are seeking to divide us with attacks on immigrants, the middle class, women’s health, the environment and the LGBT community.  We cannot live up to our promise as a nation until we extend equal rights to all,” she added.

SEIU’s history as a force for civil rights began with its founding as one of the first integrated unions. African Americans held leadership roles such as Vice President from the very beginning and AFL founder Sam Gompers even called the janitors union “too diverse”. SEIU’s leadership on civil rights continued as SEIU President David Sullivan marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 despite the refusal of the AFL-CIO to endorse King’s march on Washington.

SEIU 1199 Healthcare Workers East has an especially a proud history of civil rights activism–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it “his favorite union” and he considered himself “a fellow 1199-er.” King suggested to 1199 ” that if all of labor would emulate what you have been doing over the years, our nation would be closer to victory in the fight to eliminate poverty and injustice.”

Women’s rights are civil rights and SEIU members have marched, organized, and lobbied elected officials to create a better country for working women. A majority of SEIU’s members are women and many work in so-called “pink collar” professions such as nursing, social work, and childcare. And in 2008, Worker’s United–which descended from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union–affiliated with SEIU. Along the way, SEIU has consistently advocated for improved access to childcare, funding for women’s health, and other policies that make a difference in the lives of women across the country.

SEIU members have also been on the forefront of winning equality for LGBT Americans. SEIU was the first international union to endorse marriage equality, SEIU members continue to win protections and equal benefits for LGBT workers and their families, and SEIU recently become one of the few employers in the country to ensure our employee healthcare plan protects against gender identity-based discrimination and covers gender reassignment surgery. And in 2010, SEIU elected our first openly gay international president. Last month, (May 2012) SEIU passed a resolution at its annual national convention, to support transgender workers during contract negotiations. The resolution states that SEIU local groups and members will bargain for transgender-inclusive heath care coverage as part of their contract negotiations with businesses and employers. The diversity of our union is a source of strength instead of a cause of division. As SEIU embarks on its next ninety years, we will continue to speak up and demand justice and equality for all.


SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Julie Schnell and Carol Nieters, executive director of SEIU Local 284 have both recorded well-wishes for this year’s annual PRIDE celebrants in Minneapolis.



SEIU President Mary Kay Henry recorded a greeting as part of the “It Gets Better” Campaign.

Learn more about our union’s legacy on civil rights and justice for all. 

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SEIU Members Support Co-Worker in Dramatic Stand for Human Rights

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SEIU Minnesota’s Rafael Morataya helped mark a new chapter in civil rights history

African-American and Latino civil rights leaders and advocates for the rights of women and workers, including SEIU Minnesota Local 26, joined forces early in March at the annual Selma-to-Montgomery march.

SEIU members and leaders from across the country, like Rafael Morataya, a union organizer with Local 26 in Minnesota, joined thousands of marchers in demanding voting rights and repeal of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law. They walked across 53 miles of rolling hills from Selma to the state Capitol in Montgomery, echoing the footsteps of the “Bloody Sunday” marches that began on March 7, 1965.

On that day 47 years ago, African American citizens seeking civil rights were assaulted by state troopers and local sheriff’s deputies after crossing Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.

During a rally at the foot of the Pettus Bridge on Sunday, SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina lauded the perseverance of the marchers nearly a half Century ago that led to civil rights victories. Still, the struggle continues, Medina said.

“As our nation becomes more diverse, new obstacles are being erected to keep us from voting. Laws like Alabama’s are being enacted to drive out immigrants and legitimize racial profiling,” Medina said. “But like those who marched before us, we will never give up; we will never give up our fight for civil rights and justice for immigrants, voters and workers.”

Morataya said, “To remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled those same roads 47 years ago was really an energizing experience for me as well as a great honor for me to make the same commitment to an ongoing struggle that we have in this country.” Morataya said that the experience has given him a renewed sense of purpose in his work with SEIU Minnesota. “Definitely the march marked a new direction in my life,” he added.

SEIU Minnesota is joining forces with others in Minnesota fighting against a proposed state constitutional Voter ID amendment requiring law-abiding citizens to present a state-approved and overly-restrictive picture ID before casting their ballots. Not even military IDs and passports would be allowed under this proposal resulting in the denial of our troops’ rights to vote. The proposal also would unfairly burden the elderly, disabled and African Americans who fall into categories of persons who lack the kind of photo IDs this proposal would require.

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Women and Minorities Disproportionately Affected by Lowered Wages and Job Losses in so-called, “Right to Work” States

St. Paul, MN— Equal rights and equal pay for women doesn’t exist in Right-to-Work Sates. Research by the Washington DC-based nonpartisan think tank, Economic Policy Institute shows a gender gap in which women’s wages are penalized further than the wage of an “average” worker. The same holds true nonwhites. (more…)

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International Women’s Day is marked by SEIU’s commitment to Women’s Workplace Equality

On March 8, International women’s day was marked by speeches, blogs, articles and events worldwide. Women make up over 40 percent of global labor force and unions, which remain a powerful force for women’s workplace equality, have been there every step of the way. (more…)

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