WASHINGTON, DC (May 17, 2013) At the May meeting of the International Executive Board (IEB) of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU President Mary Kay Henry swore in Luisa Blue and Courtni Pugh as new IEB members on Friday.
Their appointment strengthens the voice of SEIU’s Asian American and Pacific Islander members, a growing segment of America’s labor movement, and reinforces how the diversity of SEIU’s 2.1 million members is a source of strength for the union. Roughly 56 percent of SEIU members are women and some 40 percent are people of color. SEIU represents more immigrant workers than any other union in the United States. Blue and Pugh join two other AAPI women Merle Cuttita and Maria Castenada.
“The diversity of our union is a source of pride for SEIU members. When our members speak out about our shared vision of a more fair and just society, they truly are doing so on behalf of diverse communities across this country,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “Luisa Blue and Courtni Pugh have the experience of being treated as “other” and leading a movement that respects “us” and understanding we are all in this together. They have long been strong voices for organizing workers and our communities to be powerful forces for economic and democratic changes that benefit everyone.”
Luisa Blue is Chief Elected Officer of SEIU Local 521 which represents 55,000 workers who provide vital community services in the diverse central California region. Blue first became active in the labor movement in 1977 at San Francisco General Hospital where she worked as a medical-surgical nurse and then a critical care nurse with SEIU Local 400 where she worked on a successful campaign that won voter approval to improve the collective bargaining rights for San Francisco City & County RNs.
Blue is also known for her work as a vocal leader in the Bay Area advocating for compassionate care of AIDS/HIV patients during the 1980 and for being a founding members of what became SEIU Nurse Alliance.
In 1992, Blue helped to found the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the first and only national organization of AAPI union members. Since its founding, APALA has played a unique role in addressing the workplace issues of the 660,000 AAPI union members and as the bridge between the broader labor movement and the AAPI community. Blue has twice served as APALA’s national president and continues to serve on the APALA Executive Board.
Gregory Cendana, currently APALA’s Executive Director, was on hand for Blue’s swearing in.
Courtni Pugh is president of SEIU Local 99 which represents nearly 45,000 employees in public and non-public organizations in early education, child care, K-12 and community college levels in southern California.
Pugh, a seasoned activist, community organizer, and political strategist, walked her first picket line at the age of 5 with her father who was a truck driver and member of Teamsters Local 364 for more than 35 years. Pugh has gone on to serve as Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Danny Davis in Washington D.C., hold senior posts in such campaigns as John Edwards for President, Kerry-Edwards 2004, and Gore-Lieberman 2000 and in 2006, she became the first woman, and first Asian American, to serve as Political Director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. She has also served as Executive Director of the SEIU California State Council, again becoming the first woman and first Asian American to do so, and, in 2010, played a key role in running labor’s independent expenditure campaign in support of Jerry Brown for Governor.
Pugh has also been active in southern California’s AAPI community. She cofounded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association (CAPASA) in 1997. She also cofounded and served as president of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium’s (NAKASEC) action fund. Pugh is also an originating board member of the Midwest Asian American Students Union (MAASU), former Asian American National Outreach Director for the Democratic National Committee, formerAsian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) fellow and former board member of the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles.
Pugh currently serves as on the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs.
With 2.1 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers—not just corporations and CEOs—benefit from today’s global economy. www.seiu.org