N.Y. Labor Leader To Head National SEIU Health Union
Dennis Rivera, the "politically powerful" head of the New York-based 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, announced on Monday that he is stepping down from his position to take over as chair of a new national health care union within the Service Employees International Union, AP/Long Island Newsday reports (AP/Long Island Newsday, 1/29).
Rivera, who has acted as president of 1199 SEIU for 17 years, has become "perhaps the most formidable and visible labor leader in New York politics," the New York Times reports. The new one million-member union, SEIU Healthcare, will combine more than 30 locals across the U.S.
The union will call for nationwide standards for health care workers and will lobby in state capitals and in Washington, D.C., to advocate for its members. Rivera said that under the new union, he foresees opportunities to double the number of unionized health care workers.
In addition, Rivera has detailed plans to have the new union create a political action committee that would have a budget of $40 million every two years -- putting it among the nation's largest PACs. Rivera said he hopes SEIU Healthcare will be a powerful political advocate for universal health coverage, according to the Times (Greenhouse, New York Times, 1/30).
In addition, the new union might bargain with national hospital and nursing home chains, union officials said (AP/Long Island Newsday, 1/29).
Rivera said, "It is a time of enormous opportunity. I believe we can obtain in the next two years, certainly with a new Congress and president, universal health coverage in the United States."