Purple Power

The History and Global Impact of SEIU
Author: Edited by Luís LM Aguiar and Joseph A. McCartin
A rare look at an important global labor union
Cloth – $110
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/24/2023
Cloth: 01/24/2023
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About the Book

Chartered in 1921, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a worldwide organization that represents more than two million workers in occupations from healthcare and government service to custodians and taxi drivers. Women form more than half the membership while people in minority groups make up approximately forty percent.

Luís LM Aguiar and Joseph A. McCartin edit essays on one of contemporary labor’s bedrock organizations. The contributors explore key episodes, themes, and features in the union’s recent history and evaluate SEIU as a union with global aspirations and impact. The first section traces SEIU’s growth in the last and current centuries. The second section offers in-depth studies of key campaigns in the United States, including the Justice for Janitors and Fight for $15 movements. The third section focuses on SEIU’s work representing low-wage workers in Canada, Australia, Europe, and Brazil. An interview with Justice for Janitors architect Stephen Lerner rounds out the volume.

Contributors: Luís LM Aguiar, Adrienne E. Eaton, Janice Fine, Euan Gibb, Laurence Hamel-Roy, Tashlin Lakhani, Joseph A. McCartin, Yanick Noiseux, Benjamin L. Peterson, Allison Porter, Alyssa May Kuchinski, Maite Tapia, Veronica Terriquez, and Kyoung-Hee Yu

* The editors would like to thank UBC Scholarly Publication Fund for financially supporting the publication of this book.

About the Author

Luís LM Aguiar is associate professor of sociology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of British Columbia. He is coeditor of The Dirty Work of Neoliberalism: Cleaners in the Global Economy. Joseph A. McCartin is a professor of history and executive director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. He is the author of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America.


"Louis Aguiar and Joseph McCartin have assembled a collection of laudatory essays, by labor-oriented academics, on SEIU’s history as a healthcare, public employee, and service sector union, how it developed signature campaigns among janitors and fast food workers, and then promoted its 'organizing model' among labor federations abroad." --BeyondChron


“A very stimulating read. The book’s multidisciplinary approach brings together a wide range of perspectives that increase the level of insight into the SEIU and the broader issue of labor organizing for precarious workers. It also highlights the complexity of the SEIU and challenges commentators who unquestioningly praise the union’s role in the U.S. labor movement, or dismiss it.”--Greg Patmore, author of Innovative Consumer Co-operatives: The Rise and Fall of Berkeley