From PR Newwire:
Today in Los Angeles, Eliseo Medina was unanimously elected as International Secretary-Treasurer of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union. Medina is the first Latino to serve in the position.
“Forty-five years ago tomorrow, I walked in to a church as a 19-year-old grape picker having no idea what a union was but knowing something was wrong. I saw that the union gave us all the opportunity to help – the union showed us what we could do, and brought out the power in the hearts of each and every one of us to create the future we believed in,” said Medina after his election. “Today workers of all races, colors and backgrounds are facing the greatest economic crisis in a generation, and I am honored and humbled by this opportunity to help working families rebuild a more just and inclusive country and make the dreams of our members a reality for everyone.”
Called “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” by the Los Angeles Times and named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” by Poder Magazine, Medina has spent more than 40 years giving workers across the country a voice on the job, especially in non-traditional union states in the South and Southwest. In Los Angeles, he was a key architect of the historic Justice for Janitors campaign in 2000, and for an encore, he helped 74,000 Los Angelenos who provide in-home care to seniors and the disabled win the right to organize for better services for the people the care for, improved training, and decent wages and benefits.
“Eliseo has dedicated his life to fighting for equal rights and economic equality for every worker based on their desire to better our society, not the color of their skin or their national origin,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “Whether he is standing by the side of striking janitors in Miami, registering voters in California or testifying in front of Congress, Eliseo can always be found on the front lines of the struggle for justice.”
Recently, Medina helped organize some of the first private hospital workers in Texas, he developed an extensive voter registration drive across the Southwest and he continues to lead the national movement for passage of comprehensive immigration reform.
SEIU's International Executive Board elected Medina to serve the remainder of the term of former Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, which concludes in 2012.
“He is a quiet leader and a strong leader, and brings great integrity to every thing he does,” said George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU, who nominated Medina. “His roots and his background with good old-fashioned organizing bring the importance knowledge that can only be learned by experience. The members will see themselves reflected in his leadership and he will bring true honor to the position.”
Background on Eliseo Medina
Born in Zacatecas, Medina followed his parents — who emigrated legally from Mexico under the Bracero program — to the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley. As a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic 1965 United Farm Workers' strike in Delano, CA. Over the next 13 years, Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and honed his skills as a union organizer and political strategist. He rose through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers' national vice president.
Medina's interests in strategic organizing brought him to SEIU in 1986, where he helped revive a local union in San Diego — building its membership from 1,700 to over 10,000 in five years. He was a key strategist in the Los Angeles strike by SEIU Local 1877's building service workers, who in April 2000 won the largest wage increase in the 15-year history of SEIU's Justice for Janitors campaign. He also helped more than 100,000 home care workers in California advocate for the best quality care for the people they serve to remain independent in their homes by securing funding to improve their quality of life. In 1996, he was elected as the first Mexican-American international executive vice president.
Medina led the effort to unite the unions of the Change to Win federation and AFL-CIO around a comprehensive framework for immigration reform. As a leading voice in Washington who frequently testifies before Congress, Medina has also helped to build a strong, diverse coalition of community and national partners that have intensified the call for reform and cultivated necessary political capitol to hold elected leaders accountable. He has helped strengthen ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the labor movement to work on common concerns such as immigrant worker rights and access to healthcare.
Medina is married to Liza Medina and he is the father of four children.