Person

Mary Kay Henry

Born:

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Current Residence:

Washington, D.C.

San Francisco, California

Occupation:

International President, Service Employees International Union

Other Notable Positions:

Board Member, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Board Member, Economic Policy Institute

Executive Board Member, Families USA

Mary Kay Henry serves as the international president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Henry worked for the union almost continuously since 1979, [1] holding 18 different jobs[2] and rising through the ranks of the D.C.-based national headquarters staff. [3]

In 2010, Mary Kay Henry became the first woman elected to lead SEIU after the resignation of Andy Stern.[4] She was unanimously re-elected in 2012.[5] As an SEIU executive,[6] she was a major participant and cheerleader in the SEIU’s heavy-handed top-down leadership style,[7] a style that she continued to espouse after her election to president. [8] [9]

Moreover, Henry is known as a master practitioner of corporate campaigns[10] and has been accused in multiple court filings and reports of leading campaigns to intimidate, extort, and blackmail corporate executives into agreeing to the union’s bargaining demands.[11] [12] [13]

Though not a registered lobbyist[14] Henry visited the Obama White House at least 15 times[15] and is very active politically. She was reportedly a board member[16] of the secretive left-of-center mega-donors club known as the Democracy Alliance in the past (though not as of February 2018),[17] endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in November 2015[18] and campaigned for her during the 2016 primaries, [19] and has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to political campaigns over the past three election cycles.[20]  Henry’s political activity serves to promote not just labor policy prerogatives but also the larger progressive movement policy agenda. [21] She has argued that racism underpins all facets of political society,[22] endorsed and campaigned for Obamacare,[23] and has demanded aggressive government action to stop global warming.[24] Moreover, she is a staunch advocate for union expansion and a $15 minimum wage, though it was revealed that she did not pay  “Fight for $15” organizers that wage level.[25] [26][27][28][29]

Background

Mary Kay Henry [30]was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan,[31] outside Detroit. [32]  Her father was a salesman and her mother a teacher.[33]

She attended Michigan State University where she majored in urban studies and labor relations, and lobbied for an advocacy group alongside union activists. She graduated in 1979 intent on working with a healthcare union and landed a research job with the SEIU within a year.[34]

SEIU Career

Left-wing labor movement newspaper In These Times’ Steve Early described Henry as “a prototypical product of the SEIU managerial class first recruited and installed by [Andy] Stern or his predecessor, John Sweeney, several decades ago.”[35]

Henry began working as a researcher for the SEIU in 1979 and has held 18 different jobs within the organization.[36]  She was elected to the International Executive Board in 1996.[37] However, She never headed a local — facts that have raised some eyebrows among labor movement activists who hold working up from the ranks a hallowed career path.[38] [39]

For eight years, from 1996 to 2004, Henry served as an “organizing director” on the SEIU International Executive Board.[40] In June 2004, she was elected to be a Vice President of SEIU[41] heading the union’s million-member healthcare workers section.[42] In this position, Henry was the public face and behind-the-scenes force for the SEIU’s effort to organize the nation’s largely non-union hospitals and health systems.[43] Under Henry’s leadership, despite her commitment to growth, SEIU’s healthcare division membership achieved far less growth than it did under her predecessor. [44]

According to Early, as an SEIU vice president Henry was “reportedly much better at conducting staff conference calls than understanding or supporting workplace struggles.”[45] Meanwhile longtime SEIU staff members have also noted that she had little experience chairing any large elected union negotiating committees confronting management across the table.[46]

In 2010, Mary Kay Henry became the first woman elected to lead SEIU.[47] She was unanimously re-elected in 2012.[48]

Top-Down Organizing Style

Henry’s predecessor, Andy Stern, had imposed centralized control over the SEIU by removing local union leaders and replacing them with Stern allies, who were usually younger, loyal to Stern, and more liberal.[49] Henry’s tenure as SEIU president has been marked by similar criticisms of top-down leadership.[50]

Henry was a major participant in Stern’s nationalized control effort. Most notably, she was heavily involved contentious events that led to the SEIU commandeering a local union, and the eventual fractious formation of a breakaway union to compete with the SEIU union.[51]

Among the criticisms of Henry’s role in this spat with SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW, also known then as Local 250) was that Henry, as head of the SEIU’s national bargaining team, was among top SEIU staffers who “commandeered negotiations” during difficult 2006-07 contract talks with Tenet Hospitals.[52]

According to former SEIU UHW leader Sal Rosselli, Henry and the national SEIU negotiating team purportedly negotiated behind the local’s back and agreed to contract terms without clearing them with the local union. These actions led former UHW member Tony Aidukis to comment, “Mary Kay has a fundamental lack of respect for workers in deciding the course of their union and their contract,” and the “SEIU [through Henry] was not looking out for the interests of its dues-paying members, but was looking to expand its membership.[53] In a subsequent Nation article Henry reportedly admitted “it was a mistake to bargain without any workers present,” and blamed a “rogue negotiator.”

Later, Henry was criticized for participating in the SEIU headquarters’ use of a trusteeship to “seize and dismantle” UHW, which at the time was the SEIU’s third largest affiliate. Henry, “at one infamous trusteeship planning meeting held in Las Vegas in January 2008, applauded the soon-to-be UHW invaders as ‘warriors’ for the SEIU cause.” [54]  This trusteeship takeover by SEIU headquarters caused local leaders led by Rosselli to leave the SEIU and create their own competing union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).[55] After her election as SEIU president, Henry said she had no intention of settling with Sal Rosselli and the NUHW. [56][57]

Aggressive Organizing Tactics

According to the New York Times, “In her decades of organizing, Ms. Henry became a “master practitioner of the labor strategy that companies hate most: corporate campaigns.”[58] In a corporate campaign, the union allies itself with outside third parties to increase intimidation and put pressure on national brands as a means of organizing entire companies nationwide rather than recruiting workers on a site-by-site basis. The practice targets employers rather than employees.[59]

A 2011, lawsuit brought by Sodexo, Inc. against the SEIU and Henry accused Henry of authorizing the creation of a corporate campaign[60] that sought to extort Sodexo’s “voluntary” recognition of the SEIU’s exclusive organizing efforts. [61] The complaint also alleged that SEIU used blackmail, vandalism, trespassing, and harassment in an ongoing attempt to unionize Sodexo’s hourly employees.[62]

The Sodexo lawsuit revealed an SEIU “Contract Campaign Manual” on “Pressuring the Employer,” which details how outside pressure could be used to jeopardize relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, and politicians.[63] Moreover, the manual recommended going after company officials personally by releasing dirt about them such as “racism, sexism, exploitation of immigrants or proposals that would take money out of the community for the benefits of distant stockholders.”[64]

On May 16 2010, less than a week after Henry was elected SEIU president,[65] she led a march on Bank of America’s headquarters, which was precipitated by a 700-member[66] “mob” protest at the home of the Bank’s deputy general counsel, seeking to intimidate him and frightening his teen child who was home alone during the event.[67]

Similarly, in 2014, Prime Healthcare Services sued SEIU and Henry personally alleging among other things that in consultation and coordination with Henry, an SEIU representative extorted Prime Healthcare through the use of a corporate campaign. Moreover the complaint stated that the Henry’s SEIU bargaining representative admitted they would only stop their campaign of public attacks and disparaging remarks against Prime, if Prime would remain neutral or take a positive stance towards the SEIU’s unionization efforts.[68]

Political Activity

Under Henry’s predecessor Andy Stern, a close ally of the Obama administration, the SEIU was the top labor political spender. Henry has continued her predecessor’s ambitious political strategies, and planned to increase gubernatorial spending for the 2010 midterm election cycle by about 40%.[69] During her first election cycle as union president, the SEIU spent a whopping $150 million on politics, up from $62 million during the 2006 mid-term election cycle.[70]

In 2012, the SEIU under Henry spent $113 million on politics and lobbying activities coinciding with President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.[71] During that same year, Henry was a speaker at the DNC convention where supported Obama and criticized GOP candidate Romney for his business acumen. [72]

Under Henry the SEIU faced criticism for endorsing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in November 2015, even though many labor activists saw Bernie Sanders as the candidate with a stronger record on labor issues.[73] When questioned about whether this was a mistake, Henry doubled down on her support for Hillary.[74] Henry noted that after the union endorsed Clinton the SEIU was actively involved in her primary campaign, sending a team into Iowa to work as part of a coordinated labor campaign and making visits to the state on Clinton’s behalf. [75] In total, under Henry’s leadership, the SEIU spent $142 million on representational activities while spending $79 million on political activities and lobbying, including the “Fight for $15” minimum wage and unionization movement.[76]

Democracy Alliance

Henry has reportedly served on the board of directors do the secretive liberal mega-donor club Democracy Alliance and serving as the organization’s vice-chair of the board. [77] [78]Henry has been criticized for being involved with the DA while at the same time attempting to demonize money in politics.[79] [80]

Campaign Contributions

Since 2000, Mary Kay Henry has donated over $25,000 to the SEIU’s PAC, $1,000 to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), and $500 respectively to Natalie Tennant (D-W.V.) for Senate in 2014 and the 2010 Committee to elect Macdonald D’Alessandro (D-Massachusetts).[81]

White House Visits

[82]Henry visited the Obama White House 15 times during the former President’s first term to discuss a variety of healthcare and economic issues.[83]  She joined other labor leaders on lobbying trips to the White House to push for labor priorities such as tax increases and against spending cuts.[84]

In 2016, Henry was a guest at President Obama’s final state dinner, held for then-Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.[85]  [86]

History Of Arrests

On at least three occasions Henry’s activist activities have ended with her arrest.[87]

In 2011, as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests Mary Kay Henry was arrested trying to block the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.[88]

In July 2014, she was arrested at a protest outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Illinois as part of a campaign to unionize the nation’s fast-food workers and to push for a $15/hour minimum wage.[89]

In November 2014, Henry was again arrested[90] at a protest demanding a $15 an hour wage at a San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting.[91]

Opposition to President Trump

During the 2016 presidential election, Henry labeled Donald Trump “very dangerous.”[92]

She went into “hyper-drive” to oppose Trump even as a faction of her own membership responded to his message. [93] Henry hoped to provide those members, whom she described as “white conservatives,” with different information that highlighted her opposition to Trump.[94]

In November 2016 Henry, processing the reality that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, called for an alliance of liberal movements to band together in collective demonstrations that let “President-elect Trump, and the right-wing extremists across government hear loud and clear that it is time for them to face our economic and democratic reality… on all fronts — economic, racial, immigrant, and environmental.” [95]

Liberal Movement Leader

Henry has said that in addition to seeing herself as a labor union leader, she sees herself in a larger respect as a piece of the overall liberal movement leadership where she uses her position of power to fuel other movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the immigrant justice movement, and as such she “show[s] up” in each of these other political fights.[96] Henry said that she sees “a huge fusion” in linking the labor fights with these other political fights[97] and as such she has taken an active stance on a wide host of liberal issue positions.

In this vein, her political priorities span the liberal spectrum from labor to immigration to black lives to voting rights and she even goes so far as to call for universal child/eldercare.[98]

Ethnic Interest Movements

Henry believes that the Black Lives Matter movement is a natural extension of the labor movement; for their part, BLM groups have endorsed labor union priorities.[99] Henry said, “The legacy and consequences of that slave system are still with us today. In fact those racist cornerstones are a major reason why we need to fight for 15 and a union.” Elaborating on this thought she proclaimed that racist barriers “live and breathe in every structure in America, the education system, the housing system, the employment system, the legal system, the criminal justice system…”[100] She also used the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson to advocate her pro-labor cause proclaiming that those events were a reminder “that social and economic justice must go hand in hand.”[101]

Henry has called for a fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for all immigrant families[102] and said that the time has come bring immigrants “into the light of our economy and society.” [103] Henry supported protests of President Trump’s temporary bar on refugee admissions.[104]

Environmentalism

Henry has written, “There is no question of whether climate change is real or not” and has linked everything from hurricanes and wildfires to asthma and the Zika virus to climate change. She has also proclaimed that climate change is a labor issue because the impacts more “acutely” affect workers’ “communities.” [105]

Consequently, Henry has cheered for numerous left-wing environmentalist policies including The Obama administration’s Paris Climate Agreement and Clean Power Plan.[106] She proclaimed that  the controversial Clean Power Plan was one of the most significant steps our country has taken to address climate change by reducing carbon emissions.[107] Conversely, she has sharply criticized President Trump’s actions on these same issues.[108] [109][110][111]Government-Run Healthcare

Henry [112]has said that she is incredibly proud to have helped passed Obamacare. [113] She has opposed efforts to repeal or substantially reform Obamacare [114] [115] and has allied with other liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org, and Indivisible to take coordinated action against the repeal efforts.[116]

Labor Issues

Henry’s vision for the future of the labor movement is the addition of millions of new unionized workers participating in union-led politics.[117] Henry’s top two political priorities are the $15 minimum wage and unionization expansion.[118]

Unionization

Henry said that her main priority for the government after the 2016 election was for every candidate to make union organizing easier. Henry seeks to expand unionization to home-care workers, child-care workers, airport workers, and fast-food workers. [119] Henry supported President Obama’s executive order mandates on federal contractors and has said four million federal contractors and 20 million employees connected to federal contractors should be subject to unionization using the SEIU’s preferred public card-check method, rather than an election campaign and secret-ballot vote.[120]

Henry has also expressed a desire to change federal law to ease the organization of independent contractors.[121]

Fight For $15

Henry has been an ardent advocate and leader in the campaign to double the federal minimum wage that has received tens of millions of dollars in support from the SEIU.[122] [123]

Henry cheered for NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to create a state wage board that mandated an increase in wages for fast food workers.[124] [125] After the decision, Henry pledged to demand the creation of wage boards nationally and in states where Henry’s union can’t pass minimum wage laws.[126]

The SEIU’s ultimate goal in the campaign is a massive increase in its dues-paid membership: Henry has said that “even if we get $15, we’re not stopping ’til [sic] we get a union.”[127]

After President Trump’s election, Henry plotted to bring the campaign beyond “blue” urban areas by targeting employment sectors such as autoworkers and truck drivers.[128]

Pay Hypocrisy

At the inaugural Fight for $15 convention, some field organizers disrupted Henry’s keynote speech to demand that SEIU leaders stop outsourcing their jobs to a third-party contractor, ensure that organizers are paid $15 an hour, and allow them to set up their own union.[129]

Fight for $15 organizers complained that that the SEIU does not pay organizers salaries equivalent to $15 an hour. Organizers also complain that SEIU resists efforts by its own workers to unionize, which undermines public support for the organization.[130]

[131]

Only after personally confronted with this issue did Henry support the organizers’ right to form a union and committed to making sure that every organizer “on this campaign” earns $15 per hour.[132]

References

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    https://olms.dol-esa.gov/query/getOrgQry.do

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