After more than 27 years of service with the Service Employees International Union, Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer, today announced his retirement from the union effective October 1. Medina will now focus solely on fighting for commonsense immigration reform, which is at a critical time in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It has been my great honor to serve SEIU’s 2.1 million members as Secretary-Treasurer,” said Medina. “In my years at SEIU and in the labor movement, I have taken constant inspiration from workers who want nothing more than respect on the job and fair wages and benefits so they can support their families. I take this inspiration with me as I now focus my full energy on passing commonsense immigration reform, a campaign that we will win this year.”
Medina leaves a proud legacy at SEIU. He joined SEIU in 1986 and helped revive a local union in San Diego, California, building its membership from 1,700 to more than 10,000 in five years. He was a key strategist in the Los Angeles strike by SEIU Local 1877’s building service workers, who, in April 2000 won the largest wage increase in the 15-year history of SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign. He also helped more than 100,000 home care workers in California advocate for the best quality care for the people they serve remain independent in their homes by securing funding to improve their quality of life.
In 1996, Medina was elected to serve as international executive vice president of SEIU. Since then, more than 1.2 million workers across the country have united with SEIU, making it the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers and the union with the largest membership of immigrant workers. In 2010, Medina was unanimously elected to serve as International Secretary-Treasurer.
“Eliseo Medina is one of the iconic social justice leaders of our time,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “From an early age, Eliseo dedicated his life to empowering workers to join together to make a better life for themselves and their families. He is an unwavering advocate for SEIU members and all workers in our country who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. Whether it was Justice for Janitors or the current fight to pass commonsense immigration reform, Eliseo is always there to offer his leadership and guide our campaigns to victory,” said Henry.
Medina’s career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, California. Over the next 13 years, Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and eventually rose through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers’ national vice president.
In a letter to SEIU leadership, Medina wrote, “For the long term, I want you to know that while I am retiring as International Secretary-Treasurer, I am not retiring from the struggle. We still have more workers to organize, more voters to mobilize and more battles to fight and win for working families. Once immigration reform is enacted, I look forward to assisting you where I can and to cheering you on as you build on the successes of the past and work to create the America of our dreams.”