A field of one
Henry emerges as likely successor to Stern at SEIU
Hospital associations and many chapters of the Service Employees International Union remained tight-lipped after word that Mary Kay Henry is poised to take over leadership after a rival candidate ended her own bid for the position.
At least one labor attorney who has frequently engaged in contract negotiations with the SEIU said, however, that the development should bode well for healthcare employers and workers given Henry’s intimate knowledge of the industry as the union’s executive vice president involved in healthcare.
The union also represents property-service employees and government workers, but more than half of the SEIU’s 2.2 million members are healthcare workers.
“She’s a known entity, and that’s important given all the changes that are in the works under healthcare reform,” said G. Roger King, a partner at Jones Day. He described Henry as someone “employers will be able to work with” on reaching labor contracts.
News of Henry’s impending leadership came late last week after release of an e-mail sent to the union’s executive board by SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger announcing she was ending her own bid for the top spot. “I am writing to you today to let you know while I would have treasured the opportunity to serve as SEIU president, I am withdrawing my candidacy,” Burger wrote.
It has been widely known that Burger was the choice of exiting SEIU President Andy Stern to take over leadership of the organization. The union doubled its membership during Stern’s 14-year stint, but the departing president garnered his share of critics. Many have faulted him for a rift between the healthcare worker membership in Northern California and the subsequent creation of a rival union called the National Union of Healthcare Workers (April 19, p. 10).
The NUHW, led by former SEIU-United Health Workers West President Sal Rosselli, is locked in a membership battle with the SEIU for healthcare workers in Northern California. Some observers believe that conflict and other