Zenia Javalera will take over as president following her election by the Executive Board
SEATTLE — After serving for 17 years as president of SEIU6 and over 27 years total with the organization, Sergio Salinas will make his retirement official today. The SEIU6 Executive Board elected Zenia Javalera to be the next president. Javalera, who was elected Secretary-Treasurer alongside Salinas in December 2017, will be sworn in as president this afternoon.
“Building SEIU6 into the thriving local it is today has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Salinas. “After more than two decades with this union, I recognize we are in a position of strength, and it is time for the younger generation to take the reins. I am inspired by the vision and energy of our new team, led by Zenia Javalera.”
Sergio Salinas (right) is stepping down as president of SEIU6; Zenia Javalera (left) will take his place.
Sergio Salinas became president of SEIU6 in 2002. Over his tenure, SEIU6 has grown from a 2,000-member, janitors-only local, to a union that represents over 7,500 janitors, security officers, airport workers, and allied industry workers. During this time, SEIU6 has made big gains for its members by negotiating master contracts in its three major industries, and by taking a leading role in winning the nation’s first $15/hour minimum wage in Sea-Tac.
SEIU6 Executive Board Member Robert Lund expressed support for the transition.
“We’ve all learned a lot from Sergio. His dedication to bettering the lives of working class people through collective action is clear,” said Lund. “It’s been an honor to sit with him at the bargaining table, and to work with the team he created that will take us into the future at SEIU6. We’ve worked with Zenia for many years, and she has our full confidence and support. We’re moving forward as a team and will keep growing our union.”
Salinas oversaw the development of SEIU6 as a political voice for its members, frequently weighing in on issues including immigration and workplace safety. SEIU6 members recently spoke out in Olympia to pass legislation to protect janitors and security officers from workplace sexual harassment. Salinas led a years-long fight to curb heavy workloads that lead to injuries in the janitorial sector, a subject which is now being studied by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
“Sergio has been a great leader and teacher,” said incoming president Zenia Javalera. “He fostered the growth of our local into a vibrant union that unites over 7,500 families across 26 languages and countless places of origin. I am committed to building on Sergio’s legacy by leading with dignity and integrity, and keeping our members united to make big gains for our families.”
Salinas brought the Justice For Janitors organizing style to Seattle in the 1990s, laying the groundwork for an ongoing campaign that’s had a major impact on Washington’s janitorial industry. Today, 90% of janitors in downtown Seattle have union jobs, including full family employer-paid medical insurance. The strength of SEIU6’s janitorial organizing led to its expansion into a broader property services local. Salinas has often said, “Janitors are the heart of our union.”
Several community and political leaders have shared their thoughts with us on Sergio’s retirement.
“Sergio’s work in building SEIU6 will have a lasting impact not only on the lives of union members, but on Washington as a state that listens to the voices of immigrant workers. Over the years, we’ve seen SEIU6 members take on big issues to shape the progressive future that we all need, with Sergio leading the way. A dear friend, I want congratulate Sergio on his retirement and welcome the leadership of Zenia Javalera.”
—Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal
“Sergio brought great organizing skills to Seattle decades ago, when I first met him. He combined leadership with passion for working men and women to build from the bottom up a powerful union—a force to be reckoned with throughout the region. His vision and tenacity will be missed!”
—Michael Ramos, Executive Director, Church Council of Greater Seattle
“Sergio Salinas has been in this fight a long time. I’ve seen him dedicate his career to building power among working class people, immigrants, and people of color. He’s built SEIU6 into a fighting union that stands up for the issues that impact its members and their communities. I congratulate Sergio and look forward to the leadership of Zenia Javalera, who I know will continue Sergio’s work in making SEIU6 a force for justice for working families in South King County and beyond.”
—Pedro Olguin, Councilmember, City of Burien
“Sergio is truly a legend in the King County labor community, and his leadership will be missed. His story is one of so many immigrants who have worked their way to the American dream—and he did it by standing up for his values and empowering others to do the same. SEIU6 is one of the most powerful person of color-led unions in the country and consistently stands up for its members.
“On behalf of the King County Labor Community, I wish Sergio the best in his much-deserved retirement. I know that newly-elected president Zenia Javalera will build on Sergio’s energy and vision to ensure low wage, immigrant, POC workers will continue to have a voice.”
—MLK Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant
SEIU6 Property Services NW is part of the largest union in the country, Service Employees International Union, which represents over 2 million service workers in North America. SEIU6 represents more than 7,500 janitors, security officers, airport workers, and allied industries workers in Washington State.