Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Kamala Harris to speak at SEIU after union elects first Black president

By 37ci3 May19,2024

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris He will deliver a keynote speech at the Service Employees International Union convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, a day after the group is expected to elect its members. the first black president.

April Verrett, the union’s 103-year-old secretary-treasurer, is running unopposed, but has the support of leaders representing 89% of SEIU members, according to a letter they wrote earlier this year.

The giant labor union, which represents nearly 2 million workers in health care, property services and government, has pledged to spend $200 million to help the president. Joe Biden and Democrats major battlegrounds This year, an effort that will begin in earnest next week.

The significant spending by organized labor comes as Biden faces a loss of support from black voters compared to 2020. Four years ago, 87% of black voters supported him, but according to exit polls, the latest national NBC News poll shows that support has fallen to 71%.

“It’s the same president and the same people. That hasn’t changed and who he is, frankly, hasn’t changed,” Verrett told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “I believe we have an enthusiasm problem.”

Verret said that while many Americans have had success raising their wages, given the current economic landscape and inflation, it “doesn’t go very far in the grocery store and gas tanks.”

“While people are really struggling with the day-to-day issues, I don’t think they’re paying enough attention to the political race,” Verret said. “They are concerned about survival.”

April Verret speaks on stage
April Verrett is set to become SEIU’s first black president.Phillip Faraone / Getty Images for Caring Across Generations file

SEIU is targeting about 6 million people who have never voted before or are unlikely to vote, including voters of color in states like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They believe these voters can be critical difference makers in razor-thin elections.

“We’ll be able to get their attention and connect the dots: The way you can make your life easier is to re-elect President Biden, because I’m sure they know that their lives are better now than they were under President Trump,” he said.

Verret acknowledged that while some working-class voters may see an appeal in voting for the former president, SEIU will “have to help people cut through the noise and get to the truth,” citing Biden’s historically low black unemployment rates, for example. .

He also believes the energy seen on picket lines across the country in the last few years, from the United Auto Workers to Kaiser Permanente, will translate directly to action at the ballot box this fall.

“Workers are fired up because they have a voice, workers are fired up because they know they have power and they want to use their power,” Verret said.

The union also plans to invest heavily in Senate races in Montana and Ohio, along with key congressional districts in California and New York. SEIU made the endorsement the same day Biden announced his re-election bid last April. The Union also supported him in 2020.

Verrett and Harris have known each other for years, dating back to their time working in California. Harris is expected to refer to Verrett’s historic union presidency on Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the prepared remarks.

“He’s kind of walked this path that I’ve walked, and he’s been very generous to me in sharing his advice and support,” Verret said.

Last month, Harris joined the SEIU and nursing home workers in Wisconsin in announcing two new federal rules that would set minimum staffing requirements for federally funded nursing homes and help raise workers’ wages.

Harris also recently visited Pennsylvania and Nevada to highlight the administration’s work to help workers and unions, including student loan forgiveness for social workers, as well as executive action expanding apprenticeship programs.

But while Biden and Harris have campaigned extensively on their economic agenda in recent months, Verrett acknowledged that the message hasn’t always reached some key voters.

“I think the administration could do a better job of communicating what’s changed and what they’re doing,” Verret said.

“It’s about individuals and how they view their lives and how they can view their future. … We just have to make sure people understand that,” he said, adding that Biden has “stood for working people” throughout his decades of public service.

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By 37ci3

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