April Verrett (SEIU)

History was made on May 20 with the election of April Verrett as the first Black president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million workers in health care, property service and government service.     

Verrett’s election occurred during the opening of the SEIU convention in Philadelphia.  She succeeds Mary Kay Henry, who retired after serving as the first woman to head the 103-year-old union.    

“I am honored and humbled to step into the pivotal role as SEIU’s new president,” Verrett wrote of X (formerly Twitter). “Together, “ThisUnion is launching a new era of worker power!”  

Labor leaders throughout the Southland applauded Verrett’s ascension to the new position. Previously, she served two years as SEIU international secretary-treasurer and as president of SEIU 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care union. 

“April Verrett’s historic election as the first Black Woman to serve as SEIU International President heralds a pivotal moment in leadership, charting a course for progress within the labor movement,” declared Yvonne Wheeler, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor. 

“A stalwart for justice, she tirelessly champions improved wages, fair working conditions, and the dismantling of systemic injustices. Through her leadership, a new era emerges where unions stand as guardians against generational poverty and racial inequality, fostering a more robust democracy and empowered communities,” she noted. 

Arnulfo De La Cruz, president of SEIU Local 2015, offered similar remarks in a statement celebrating Verret’s election.  On behalf of caregivers across California, he forcefully stated that Verrett will “lead our union boldly into the future.”  

“Having worked alongside April here at SEIU 2015, I know she will continue her commitment to building an anti-racist worker organization that will powerfully resist corporate greed and structural racism. April knows that we will never win economic justice without racial justice,” De La Cruz said. 

“April Verrett’s career has been a testament of her commitment to empowering, mobilizing, and uplifting workers. Her leadership is fueled by the belief that unions are not just a means to secure better wages, benefits, and working conditions, but a powerful platform for advocacy to win all forms of justice—economic, racial, environmental, gender, disability, generational, social, housing,” he added. 

Charisse Bremond Weaver, president/CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade and a longtime friend of Verrett’s, attended the SEIU convention and witnessed the historic election. 

Describing the moment as “truly a blessing,” Bremond Weaver said, “And to know she will be this year’s Brotherhood Crusade Bremond/Bakewell Pioneer of African American Achievement awardee makes her election even more meaningful to all of us in Southern California.”  

A native of Chicago, Verrett has deep roots in the labor movement starting with being raised by her grandmother, a union steward for SEIU Local 46.  According to the SEIU website, her grandmother taught her “the values of perseverance, collective action, and community.” 

Her career includes stints as executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, chair of the union’s National Home Care Council, co-chair of the National Organizing Committee, and a member of the Finance Committee. 

“April Verrett’s visionary outlook and unwavering faith in the collective strength of diversity inspire us to shape a future where every worker’s voice is not only heard but also valued and respected,” Wheeler said.  

“May her trailblazing journey ignite the aspirations of future generations, demonstrating that representation is not merely an aspiration but a potent force for meaningful change.”