Eliseo Medina
Chair of Immigration and Latino Civic Engagement Initiative, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the most successful labor organizers in the country" and was named one of the "Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders" in Poder Magazine. The International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Medina also leads the union's efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that rebuilds the nation's economy, secures equal labor- and civil-rights protections for workers to improve their wages and work conditions and provides legal channels and a path to citizenship.

Called a "quietly charismatic" leader "who is helping immigrant workers win union representation and make their voice heard in the political arena" by the Sacramento Bee, the issue of immigration reform is very personal to Medina. When he was 10-years-old, he came to the United States from Mexico with his mother and siblings to join their father, who was an immigrant farm worker.

Working to ensure the opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform does not slip away, Medina led the effort to unite the unions of the Change to Win federation and AFL-CIO around a comprehensive framework for reform. Serving as a leading voice in Washington, frequently testifying before Congress, Medina has also helped to build a strong, diverse coalition of community and national partners that have intensified the call for reform and cultivated necessary political capitol to hold elected leaders accountable. Medina has also helped strengthen ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the labor movement to work on common concerns such as immigrant worker rights and access to health care.

Medina's career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers' strike in Delano, Calif. Over the next 13 years, Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and honed his skills as a union organizer and political strategist; eventually rising through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers' national vice president.

His interests in strategic organizing brought him to SEIU in 1986, where he helped revive a local union in San Diego--building its membership from 1,700 to over 10,000 in five years. He was a key strategist in the Los Angeles strike by SEIU Local 1877's building service workers, who in April 2000 won the largest wage increase in the 15-year history of SEIU's Justice for Janitors campaign. He also helped more than 100,000 home care workers in California advocate for the best quality care for the people they serve remain independent in their homes by securing funding to improve their quality of life.

In 1996, Medina was elected to serve as international executive vice president of SEIU. He made history by becoming the first Mexican American elected to a top post at the 2.1 million-member SEIU. His work has helped make SEIU the fastest-growing union on the West Coast and the largest union in California. Since 1996, more than 1.2 million workers across the country have united with SEIU, the nation's largest union of healthcare workers and the union with the largest membership of immigrant workers.

Medina has also headed SEIU's efforts to help workers in 17 states across the southern and southwestern United States--including Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia--unite in SEIU so they will have the strength to improve their jobs and the services they provide in their communities.

In 2010, Medina was unanimously elected to serve as International Secretary-Treasurer of the 2.1 million-member union.

Medina lives in Washington, D.C.. He is married and the proud father of four children and one grandchild.

Load More Stories