Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about union activity and the fight for workers' rights in a visit to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Harris attended a moderated conversation at the Service Employees International Union’s executive board meeting, which convenes twice a year. She was joined by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and Secretary-Treasurer April Verrett in the discussion at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel.
Henry and Verrett introduced Harris by highlighting her lived experience as a woman of color and her track record of supporting unions and workers.
“She's joined fast food workers on the picket lines, she's joined striking home care workers, and she's been to South Carolina with hospital workers, and the list goes on and on and on,” Verrett said. “Her street cred is real.”
Harris, the chair of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, highlighted the recent accomplishments of local unions and thanked workers for their efforts.
“Each of these accomplishments, whether it be at a local, state, or national level, gives people not only a sense of hope, which is so critical in a moment like this for so many reasons, but it also reminds people of what they have a right to demand,” Harris said.
Harris also emphasized President Joe Biden’s commitment to workers' rights. Her trip to Philadelphia comes after Biden’s announcement of his bid for re-election, in which Pennsylvania will be key to securing victory.
“Joe Biden lives, breathes, and cares so deeply about the importance of strengthening and uplifting working people through strengthening and uplifting labor unions,” Harris said. “Our administration will prove to have been the most union friendly administration in all of America's history.”
Harris acknowledged that “there’s still more work to be done,” citing issues such as the wages of childcare workers and the working conditions and wages of nursing home workers.
Founded in 1921, SEIU comprises nearly two million workers in various sectors, primarily health care, public services, and property services. Pennsylvania’s SEIU Local 668 chapter, which includes Philadelphia, represents around 20,000 human services, public, and social workers.
Penn has seen an increase in union activity throughout 2023. Workers at the Penn Museum have been in contract negotiations since October 2021. The Graduate Employees Together at the University of Pennsylvania, comprising over 1,900 Penn student workers, began unionization efforts in April.
Penn Medicine residents and fellows successfully voted to unionize on May 8, establishing Pennsylvania’s first housestaff union. The Committee of Interns and Residents, which currently represents over two-thirds of Penn Medicine’s residents and fellows, is a local union of SEIU.