By Megan R. Wilson - 09/25/13 04:48 PM EDT
The Service Employees International Union on Wednesday elected new leadership.
Mike Fishman was named the union’s No. 2 as the international secretary-treasurer, while Rocio Sáenz was named international executive vice president.
Fishman replaces Eliseo Medina, who is retiring next week to focus on immigration reform.
Mary Kay Henry, the president of the 2.1 million-member union, said the two will be “vital” in SEIU’s battle against income inequality.
“Just as they have stood up for working people in their communities, they will be powerful advocates for our members across the country,” she said.
Fishman has worked as SEIU International’s executive vice president since last year. He spent more than a decade working at the largest private-sector union in his home state of New York. In that role, he more than doubled its membership, the international union says.
“Standing up for working people is in my blood, it’s what I know and it’s what I’ll do. It’s a fight for the fundamental promise of America: work hard and you can get ahead,” said Fishman, who is the grandson of a union-carpenter.
Sáenz, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, will be the first Latina to serve as an SEIU International executive vice president.
She began working with the organization more than two decades ago, initially joining SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign in 1988 while holding low-wage jobs in southern California. In that effort, Sáenz worked as part of a team to organize janitors in Los Angeles and eventually moved to Boston to expand the Justice for Janitors program. She began leading New England’s property services local in 2003.
“Rocio’s story is the American Dream,” said Henry. “She came here to make a better life for herself. … From California to Massachusetts, Rocio has left her mark.”
Sáenz anticipates being involved in “fights for better wages, implementation of the Affordable Care Act and commonsense immigration reform.”
Although labor has been critical of the roll out of ObamaCare, SEIU International has encouraged its members to talk about the law in workplaces.
“I look forward to being a voice for working people across the country as we carry forward these efforts,” Sáenz said.