Win the Future

June 7, 2024
Posted in Uncategorized

SEIU Convention 2024 Resolution #105a

Throughout our union’s history, SEIU members have embraced change to shape a better future. Thanks to their foresight and unity–and decades of work by SEIU members committed to building a more just society–we’ve won monumental victories for working people. We carry on their legacy and look forward to the future we envision, where societies in Puerto Rico, Canada, and the United States are more just. To make that future a reality, we have to shape the monumental changes affecting our work and world–not wait for it to happen.

In the last few years alone we’ve lived through the kind of transformation that shapes the course of people’s lives and history itself. In 2016 the United States elected President Donald Trump–who openly expressed racist, misogynistic and xenophobic ideas, undermined our democracy, spread conspiracy theories and used his bully pulpit to attack workers, immigrants and communities of color. We saw the rise of authoritarianism and white supremacist groups’ ranks and activity swelled in the United States and around the world.

Emboldened, corporate power grew unchecked even in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic that has killed nearly 7 million people worldwide and disrupted national and global economies. We’ve also seen technology, including social media and artificial intelligence (AI), disrupt many aspects of societies and economies as well as a sharp uptick in the devastation wrought by climate change. We know that disruptions like these will continue.

We must reckon with their impacts on SEIU members and all working people–on their lives and communities as well as their workplaces–because too often change has failed to benefit people in our societies equally-and those left behind have often been working people, people of color,
immigrants and women. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, the success of our movement and Unions for All also requires great change. We can actively embrace and shape technology to improve our jobs, our families lives and our organizing work. By using our strength in numbers and focusing on these issues strategically, we have the ability to shepherd these transformations–not just to avert disaster–but to create technologies, economies, governments and environments that benefit working people–and societies that actively promote justice and equity.

In a world growing increasingly volatile, our union’s greatest strength is our clarity of purpose and our vision for a just society for all people, bolstered by our ability to transform our own organization to meet the needs of the future. By adapting to and pushing for change that benefits everyone–not just big corporations and the wealthy –we’ll continue to win victories that endure for generations to come.

Our Challenge

Working people confront an economy and world that is more volatile, uncertain and complex than ever before. As a result, work, as we know it, is continuing to fall apart.

Technology continues to change jobs, displacing some and altering many more. While technology can improve our jobs and lives, corporations, when left to their own devices, use technology to maximize profits at all costs–most of which have been borne by working people. Machines, robotics and automation will continue to expand their reach into more work and workplaces. Artificial intelligence (AI), the computer power that allows computers to “learn” and problem-solve, is a much newer technology, and many of its effects are still largely unknown. However, it is expected to have an impact on a significant share of jobs.

Technological and broader societal changes are also driving many workers to be less connected to one employer or workplace. Employers have cut ties to employees through an increasing reliance on outsourcing and freelance work. In recent years this has accelerated with the advent of app-based (or gig-based) work (work obtained through an online platform or application). This shift has had the effect of making many conditions worse for the people doing these jobs by lowering pay, reducing benefits, and shifting costs from employers to working people. However, given that “traditional” employment continues to underpay people with schedules they have no control over, many people are showing a preference for app-based work because the relative autonomy at least affords them some control over their schedule.

Technology – and the social change that accompanies it – will change more than work. It will continue to change the ways we connect to one another and make sense of the world. Smartphones, social media, and online communities will continue to shape how people develop relationships, understand the world around us, and connect to our families, communities, and movements.

While technology has increased our connection in some respects, more people –especially young people–are experiencing loneliness and disconnection. Technology also allows for more efficient spread of misinformation and disinformation, toxic political movements, and inflammatory content that rewards outrage with clicks. And we’ve barely begun to contemplate the effects that artificial intelligence has had–and will have–on the ways we communicate, understand (or misunderstand), and connect with others, with work, school, and all parts of life.

Technology is only one aspect of the rapid change affecting worker’s lives. Working people also face threats such as climate change, rising white supremacy, authoritarianism, and extreme economic inequality that continue to displace workers, destabilize our communities and disproportionately harm Black and Brown people. These existential crises, along with war and economic instability, are likely to accelerate, changing where and how people live and work and driving mass migrations of people fleeing catastrophic conditions.

In addition, we will continue to face unpredictable disruptions, including pandemics and other destabilizing events of national and global scale. These disruptions may include, for example, massive failures of technology, extreme financial crises, or political volatility and wars. Our collective experience living through the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how extreme these types of destabilizing events can be. It’s also demonstrated that these disruptions cost working people and people of color most dearly.

Our Opportunity

Our rapidly changing world also creates unprecedented opportunities for working people to build power, expand the potential of organizing to win Unions for All and bring about more just societies. We can harness the power of changing technology and other shifts to improve our jobs, our families’ lives and to advance our organizing at a much faster pace.

As those most impacted by these crises, SEIU members are also the best positioned to design and win the future we envision. We perform much of the essential work our societies need now and in the coming decades and as a diverse union of working people we can build worker power by fostering deep cross-racial solidarity. Through our day-to-day work and our union, we have a vested interest in making sure that our families, the people we serve and care for, and our communities are better off because of our efforts.

And together in this union, SEIU, we have the foresight, the skills, and the courage to take on big fights to improve the lives of working people and experiment to find new ways to win. We will invest in the next generation of ideas, of leadership, of talent, and technology to be able to meet and create the future we need.

To do that, we can and must become a future-ready union, a cutting-edge union with the organizational culture, structures and resources to meet the challenges and opportunities of the coming decades.

Therefore, be it resolved:

  • SEIU will work to strengthen our capacity to identify, analyze, and shape technological and social change. We will create language-accessible spaces and structures for member leaders and staff to develop their understanding of societal and technological changes and their implications for the current workforce, for organizing and community-building. We will build our capacity to shape emerging technologies in support of building worker power, and we will increase our capacity to forecast and learn about the future, identify implications, and act on innovative strategies to achieve our goals.
  • SEIU will create and sustain an organizational culture and structure that prepares our union to win the future for working people. We will be an anti-racist union fighting to dismantle structural racism. We will cultivate and sustain a culture of language justice at every level of the union and assess what support is needed for local unions to meet our language justice goals. We will prioritize learning and innovation and value strategic experimentation. We will develop and nurture a culture that attracts and is informed by a new generation of workers, and we will invest in attracting and developing a staff that is multi-racial, multilingual, multi-religion, and multi-generational, and includes LGBTQIA2S+ people and people with disabilities, who will help our union shape the future. We will ensure our structures support our ambitious goals to build power and win the future.
  • SEIU will build our organizational preparedness for disruption. We will develop and strengthen our organizational capacity to conduct contingency planning for different potential disruptions. We will be intentional about working in partnership with allies on preparedness for extreme events and will incorporate a strategy for dealing with disinformation and misinformation in the context of such disruption. As we explore and develop the tools and resources necessary for disruption preparedness, we will create opportunities for current members and leaders in Puerto Rico, Canada and the United States to share experiments, learnings, and successes.