Service Employees Union Gets a New President

The Service Employees International Union got a new president today: Mary Kay Henry, who has served as an executive vice president with the union, will succeed Andy Stern atop the SEIU. She's already taken office as president.

SEIU will be "moving forward in an even bigger way...on organizing, politics, and restoring relationships throughout the American labor movement," Henry said today on a conference call with reporters, after being elected by SEIU's 73-member board.

A few things of note:

-SEIU has dedicated $4 million to an innovation fund to look for new opportunities to organize workers in the private sector.

-SEIU expanded its political spending a bit, dedicating $4 million more to governors' races in 2010.

-Reunification? SEIU has had no talks about reaffiliating with the AFL-CIO, Henry said, but there will be "listen and learn" talks in the month of May involving the heads of AFL-CIO and Change to Win affiliate unions; at the meeting today, SEIU's board made a commitment to participating in that listen-and-learn process. Henry said the labor movement doesn't need to be structured as one entity to speak with one voice on behalf of workers.

-Henry says the union will focus on "building at the grassroots in between election cycles" by talking to non union members. "SEIU members stand ready to join arms with every non union member in this country," Henry said. SEIU has had success in reaching out to non union members in Latino communities where its membership is strong, Henry said, and it wants to expand that effort to African American and other communities.