Members steer the course at 521 convention

521 Biennal ConventionMember delegates from throughout the local converged at the SEIU 521 Biennial Convention October 7 - 9 in San Jose and took the first steps in shaping the future of our union.

Income inequality continues to grow in the United States. CEO’s and corporations refuse to pay their fair share of taxes. While 1 percent of the population controls 40 percent of America’s wealth, about 14 million people remain unemployed.

Presentation materials: “Who broke the economy 2.0?”

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Using a free thinking, free flowing meeting method called “open space,” delegates wrestled with today’s big issues during the convention. What is our idea of a just society? How does public service play into this vision? How can we steer our union to help America achieve a fair economy and a just society?

Records of the convention will be placed into a Book of Proceedings, which will then go to the 521 Executive Board and be used to develop a plan for the future of our union.

Here’s what member delegates said about the convention:

“This is about receiving input on the main topics our member driven union wants to focus on. There have been several members who see our union density is decreasing and the importance of getting out there and talking to people about organizing and growing. The future is getting bleak. Losses are severe. We must organize. We must build. And we must educate others about our history.”
– Gwyn Harshaw, SEIU Local 521 President

“We need to get out of our comfort zone, start getting involved. Support SEIU and start calling our local government officials. Set up meetings, tables, whatever it takes to get our message out. We have to be grassroots and start with our community first.”
– Heidi Perez, Office Assistant II, Fresno County Department of Social Services

“This union is for every one of us; every profession, every job. Our union protects us all, across the board. We should be involved, especially now, so that we can be stronger as one.”
– Sharon Ingram, Nurse, Kern Medical Center, Bakersfield

“We are addressing the most important inequity that’s happening in our society; that is the economic crisis is being placed in our lap and we are getting ready to fight back. Corporate America is the real culprit in this. SEIU is organizing, so be prepared.”
– Carmen Morales, First Vice President of SEIU 521

“I think this is great. We’re getting people together to share ideas and make some positive changes to move our union forward. We’ve got to find a way for everyone to have a job to provide for their families.”
– Vicki Rodriguez, Vice President, Santa Cruz County Chapter

“A fair economy only makes sense. It helps everybody, not just the rich. Everyone needs to be treated fairly. We need to get the word out. This convention is a step forward in doing that.”
– Connie Chew, Senior Paralegal, Santa Clara County

“I think this is good because we’re able to get opinions from various demographics; the young, old, unemployed and retired. People are very interested in having big corporations pay their fair share.”
– Dolly Clemente, Home Care worker, San Mateo County

“Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution.”
– Adam Gintz, Facilities Support Assistant, Golden Valley Health Centers, Merced

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3 Responses to “Members steer the course at 521 convention”

  1. Wanda Wallace says:

    Hello, members of Kern County Chapter.

    I attended the Biennial Convention because of your nomination. I was proud to have attended on your behalf.

    I want to report to you that my experience at the Biennial Convention on October 7 – 9 was enjoyable, fun, and as always, a worthwhile learning experience.

    I met a lot of our union brothers and sisters from other 521 local chapters. We shared a lot of information from “open space” discussions about how we as members can improve our Union to best serve our members, and how we can achieve our common goals to earn a living wage, have job security, protect our health benefits, and maintain the right to be a Union.

    We were a very diverse group of members; black, white, brown, young, old, retirees, new immigrants, democrats and republicans, and we all came together as one.

    We opened the convention Friday evening with a unity song, “This Land is our land,” and ended the convention on Sunday with the song by Beatle John Harrison, “Imagine.”

    Members, just imagine how strong our union can be if we worked together as one.

    Come aboard. Get involved. Help keep our union strong.

    Thanks again for sending me to the convention.

    Your delegate,
    Wanda Wallace, Social Service Supervisor, Kern County Chapter
    Executive Board Delegate

  2. Carolyn Woolfolk says:

    The Biennial Convention made me feel I was part of something positive, valuable, constructive, and beneficial to our society. Our Union is truly representative of America as a melting pot and when looking around the room it was very evident. We all had a common goal to make life better for working families, the future and the future of our children. It was dynamic when we held a round table and shared our reason for being a part of the Union and what each of us got out of the Convention.
    The “open space” method provided us with the ability to discuss what topics were important to us and to share our thoughts and ideas freely. This gave some of us the opportunity to get a different perspective. For instance, I am a Democrat but seeing Union members who are Republican fighting for the same cause gave me a different perspective. I was in a group titled “Politics and the Union,” and I believe we all were more open as a result of discussion regarding candidate’s voting records, values and beliefs rather than party affiliation.
    There were some concerns and suggestions about how the Union Executives could better support Union Staff, Shop Stewarts and workers. There was a recommendation to meet through teleconference to discuss the issues further.
    Overall I believe the convention was positive and constructive and most of us were motivated to make our Union a success.
    Carolyn Woolfolk
    SEIU 521 Retiree
    Election Committee Officer

  3. Henry Ildefonzo says:

    The Local 521 Biennial Convention was very insightful. It was nice to see our great diversity and how much we have matured as a regional Local. It looks like our initial charter held much water and the vision moving forward will concentrate on improving on what we are doing right, while correcting what we may be doing wrong. What we set forth will no doubt “improve the lives of working people and their families, and lead the way to a more just and humane society.”

    Henry Ildefonzo
    Region 3 Vice President
    Mariposa, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties


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