President of Powerful Service Workers Union Will Step Down

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, one of the nation’s largest and most politically powerful labor unions, announced Tuesday that she would step down after 14 years in her position.

Ms. Henry was the first woman elected to lead the union, which represents nearly two million workers like janitors and home health aides in both the public and private sectors.

Under her leadership, it launched a major initiative known as the Fight for $15, which sought to organize fast-food workers and push for a $15 minimum wage. Winning over skeptics in the ranks, Ms. Henry argued that the union could make gains through a broad-based campaign that targeted the industry as a whole rather than individual employers.

Labor experts and industry officials cite the campaign as a major force behind significant minimum-wage increases in states including California and New York and cities like Seattle and Chicago. It also pushed a recent California law creating a council to set a minimum wage in the fast-food industry, which will become $20 an hour in April, and to propose new health and safety standards.

But the Fight for $15 campaign has not unionized workers on a large scale and enabled them to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with their employers.

Ms. Henry’s tenure has coincided with a series of legislative and legal challenges to organized labor, including state laws rolling back collective bargaining rights and allowing workers to opt out of once-mandatory union fees, as well as a landmark Supreme Court ruling allowing government employees to do the same.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *