SEIU 1021

SEIU 1021 President Theresa Rutherford reflects on a significant year for our union


2022 was a big year for our union. I am so proud of the work we did to advance the interests of our members and of working people more broadly while still living and working under the cloud of COVID-19. 

We had over 90 chapters begin bargaining for their next contract this year. We fought and won agreements that raised standards for workers across Northern California, including in places like the City and County of San Francisco, San Joaquin County, Solano County, and beyond. At Mills College, members organized to win a hard-fought deal to stabilize their institution after its purchase by Northwestern University. At workplaces like Sacramento Unified School District and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, winning strong new agreements meant taking the ultimate step of going on strike to force the bosses to do the right thing. You will have noticed that not many weeks went by when we weren’t celebrating a new contract somewhere. When we stand together and fight as a team, we are unbeatable. We win.

We also fought to expand our movement and raise standards for workers everywhere. This included some of the lowest-paid workers outside of our union, fast-food workers. We fought for—and won—the nation’s first-of-its-kind sectoral bargaining bill for the fast-food industry by passing the landmark legislation AB257. We organized hundreds of new adjuncts and lecturers at Santa Clara University, who will now fight for their first contract. We’ve maintained our commitment to supporting workers in the gig economy, as they fight against dangerous new and exploitative business models which perpetrate indentured servitude and the systemic exploitation of workers. These models will threaten our own working standards down the line by eroding hard-won rights and benefits such as employer-paid health care, retirement security like pensions, access to sick time, and more.

As a union that represents members in public sector, education, and nonprofit workplaces whose funding is often dictated by local elected officials, we understand the importance of flexing our collective muscle at the ballot box. It’s how we elect the people who will have significant sway over future negotiations. We elected a champion for workers, Sheng Thao, as the next Mayor of Oakland and secured dozens of victories on school boards, boards of supervisors, city councils, and all the way to the statehouse in Sacramento and Washington DC. Our efforts to improve the lives of members at work and in our communities will be better for it. You can contribute to this work by signing up to become a donating member of our Committee on Political Education (COPE).

In the year to come, we still have plenty of work cut out for us. We must maintain our commitment to fighting for racial, economic, and environmental justice. I am passionate about seeing our union build pathways for our members to grow and advance in their careers through training, education, and workforce development. We must also continue bringing more workers into our movement, including fast food, gig, and nonunion clinic workers.  I look forward to us rolling up our sleeves and collectively working together to build power in our workplaces and our communities in the new year. We are indefatigable defenders of social justice and workers’ rights. We are also an unbeatable force when we work together. When we fight, we win.