I recently made a huge move — I moved 3,000 miles across the country. Upon landing, the first thing I did was begin my job search. One job I have always wanted to do is union organizing. The Service Employees International Union was looking for organizers in training to enlist in a one year training program for the Higher Education Campaign. I decided to apply and submitted a cover letter and resume.
I have heard pretty negative things about SEIU both from organizers (current and former) as well as union members. The most common being:
-SEIU aims to hire people with “no experience” and at times without many choices in order to overwork and underpay them-
I heard back from an SEIU Organizing Director in D.C. and was completely disgusted by this narcissistic individual. After and extremely brief phone interview I decided to write this person an email.
I believe it’s important to share with folks reading this what I believe the true intentions of this union are. They are clearly not interested in having organizers who care about creating change, but rather a union too busy engaging in petty political fights over membership numbers and $$ (dollar signs). A friend said the interviewer’s reaction to my comment was her attempt to take power back. Who wouldn’t want to think: I said not to you vs. she said the salary is too low. I believe I have some skills and even when I spoke to another SEIU organizer a couple of days before, I was advised to say, “I never want to teach again. SEIU is my one and only choice.”
This is the email I sent:
“I would like to take a couple of minutes to express how disheartened I felt after our conversation this afternoon.
I took personal offense to the questioning of my commitment to the labor movement. Saying my asking about salary led you to question my commitment to organizing was disrespectful. As a first generation Latina, being raised by a single mother was difficult. I have both experienced first hand the effects of low wages and witnessed the physical and emotional toll poor working conditions have had on my mother. I have come to realize and commit myself to organizing because I believe another world is possible. I believe there is an urgency to work collectively in order to create a just and fair world for all.
In addition, during our conversation you continually said I have no experience as an organizer. It is arrogant for anyone to insinuate organizing is not “real” organizing outside the context of “official” union work. I have spent countless unpaid hours outside of my full-time teaching responsibilities attending meetings, hearings, study groups, speaking with parents, colleagues, and other community members to improve both the learning conditions of students and working conditions of teachers. The previously mentioned experience does not include the extensive amount of social justice solidarity work I have been involved in both in Los Angeles and New York City.
Thanks your taking time to speak with me this afternoon and for reading this email. Best of luck with your work.”
Unsurprisingly I never heard from her. But to all you folks out there thinking about SEIU and OIT are organizing routes you’d like to take: think twice.