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The Service Employees International Union

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Work Culture at The Service Employees International Union

Our Story

The SEIU was founded in 1921 in Chicago as the Building Services Employees Union (BSEU); its first members were janitors, elevator operators, and window washers.

Ninety years ago, members of seven small flat janitor unions dared to dream they could build their strength by forming a single organization, the Building Service Employees International Union, BSEIU. A union of mostly immigrant workers, BSEIU was primarily organized of janitors and window washers in its early years--workers who were excluded from other unions at the time.

BSEIU faced opposition from building owners, the courts, and even other unions, but managed to quickly grow from 200 members in 1921 to 250,000 by 1960.

In 1968, the BSEIU changed its name to Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The Chicago-based Local 1, the union's first local union, continues to unite janitors, security officers, and other property service workers for justice at the workplace and in our communities today.

From those humble beginnings grew an organization of 2.2 million janitors, nursing home workers, nurses, child care providers, security officers, county and city workers, and other workers.

Today SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America, uniting workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Over 25 percent of our members whom identify as immigrants - a constant tribute to the union's roots. From the start, SEIU has embraced its heritage as a union of immigrants and has stood on the frontline of immigrant justice.

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