Neal Bisno, President | SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania
Neal is President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, uniting nearly 25,000 nurses and healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes, homecare services, and State facilities. He has been working in the labor movement since 1989 and joined the leadership of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania in 1995. Under Neal’s leadership, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania has become one of the fastest growing and most innovative local unions in SEIU. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members have successfully waged breakthrough organizing campaigns; achieved landmark contract standards setting safe, minimum RN to patient ratios; passed historic legislation prohibiting mandatory overtime for Pennsylvania caregivers; and established the first ever statewide training and education fund for Pennsylvania healthcare workers. Neal is an SEIU International Vice President and serves on the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Committee, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), and various other boards and councils. Neal lives in Pittsburgh with his partner Lisa Frank and their son, Sam.
David Bridger, Vice-President | SEIU Local 2 Canada
David is currently the Vice-President of SEIU Local 2 Canada since 2010 and recently was re-elected to office for the next four years. David has been involved in labor representation for the last 20 years at his original employer Labatt, having held many positions from steward up to including President of his SEIU Branch Local until leaving to join SEIU Local 2 on a full-time basis in 2012. David has spent many years heavily involved in dispute resolutions, Human Rights, Workplace Insurance, Return to Work, and contract negotiations. Additionally, David has become certified to instruct workplace insurance training courses and has taught classes on numerous occasions. David is honored to represent the thousands of members of Local 2 in his leadership role as Vice-President.
Laphonza Butler, President | SEIU ULTCW
Laphonza is the President of SEIU ULTCW – the United Long Term Care Workers’ Union, which represents 180,000 in-home caregivers and nursing home workers across California. Laphonza’s passion for advocating and leading on behalf of workers and those they serve is grounded in her own personal journey. Growing up in a household where her Mom held multiple low wage jobs to provide for her three children, Laphonza experienced first-hand the challenges faced by working families who did not have a voice on the job or the power of a union to improve their conditions. Today, through her leadership within SEIU, Laphonza has brought dignity and respect to the jobs and lives of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country by organizing and fighting for social and economic justice on their behalf. A proud native of the south, Laphonza is a graduate of Jackson State University, in Jackson, MS.
Merle Cuttitta, President | SEIU Local 500
Merle began working with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in 1972 as a Para-educator and remained for 5 years. She then resigned the school system to pursue a career in the private sector with a concentration on service industries. Merle has also managed and trained new Office Managers for the temporary help industry. Later opportunities led to the financial management of a multi-million dollar fine jewelry business. In 1991, Merle returned to Montgomery County Public Schools as an office assistant and later an administrative secretary. In 2001, she won the election for President of the union and is currently serving in her 11th year as President. SEIU Local 500 currently represents approximately 16,000 employees in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Merle Cuttitta graduated from Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland and attended the University of Maryland College Park majoring in Education and Psychology. She has been married for 39 years and has two children. Merle’s family has resided in Frederick, Maryland for 34 years.
Cathy Glasson, President | SEIU Iowa Local 199
Born and raised in the Hawkeye State, Cathy grew up in the small town of Spencer, in northwest Iowa. Cathy always knew she wanted to help people and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at the University of Iowa in 1982. Cathy, a member of SEIU International Executive Board, Leader in the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, and President of the SEIU Local in Iowa, has worked for more than 20 years as a Registered Nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit. Cathy has been integrally involved in raising awareness about the health care crisis on a local and national level for almost 10 years. She helped to unite more than 2000 registered nurses and 900 healthcare professionals in Iowa. She resides in Coralville with her husband and has a daughter in St. Louis.
G. Roni Green, Secretary-Treasurer | SEIU Local 668
Roni is serving her first term as Secretary-Treasurer for SEIU Local 668. On her journey to becoming an officer, she serviced SEIU 668 members for over 24 years in various capacities. Roni began her 668 journey as a County Assistance Office caseworker in Philadelphia (Lehigh/Glendale). She went on to work her way through the Union serving in various capacities, including Shop Steward, Chapter 12 Chair, Statewide Executive Board (SWEB) member and served on staff as a Business Agent. Her fight for change isn’t limited to the workplace, as she is heavily involved in multiple community organizations, including City of Philadelphia Committeewoman, Vice President of the Lehigh District Alumni Association and steering member for Women with a Purpose. Roni is not afraid of hard work and long days. She believes there is a something in this movement for EVERYONE to do and encourages members to become leaders in their shops.
Sterling Harders, Organizing Director & Vice President | SEIU Healthcare 775NW
Sterling was born and raised in a small town on the coast of Washington State. Her father has been a union mill worker and an oyster farmer, and her mother works with people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. After spending two years teaching English in Spain after college, she returned to Washington State and became a union organizer with SEIU Healthcare 775NW. During her time there, Sterling has worked for social justice across the state and globe – she has helped home care workers and nursing home workers organize in a number of states, travelled the country getting SEIU healthcare members active in support of the Affordable Care Act, and trained organizers as far away as St. Petersburg, Russia. Sterling became the Deputy Organizing Director at SEIU Healthcare 775NW in 2007 and Organizing Director in 2010, and was elected a Vice President in March of 2011.
Vanessa Johnson, Vice President, Maryland division | 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Vanessa is a Vice President for 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and is currently serving as the director of new organizing for the Maryland-DC region. Vanessa has worked with 1199 for twelve years and has held various organizing positions with the union, organizing hospital, nursing home and homecare workers throughout New York, Maryland and DC. Prior to 1199, she worked with Public Citizen and National Jobs With Justice in organizing, policy and program positions. Vanessa’s organizing roots were first developed by her proud union family and while student organizing in both high school and college campaigns for equal access to education. Vanessa currently lives in Washington, DC and proudly hails from Brooklyn, New York.
Maggie Laslo, Chief of Staff | SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana
Maggie is the Chief of Staff for SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. She joined the staff of one of its predecessor unions, Local 880, in 1993 as an organizer. In her years as a field organizer, she worked on campaigns to unionize public and private sector home care workers along with community organizing efforts to win living wage laws, fight for affordable housing and build independent political action. Maggie led the effort that resulted in the first collective bargaining rights for home child care providers following a historic 10 year organizing effort that saw thousands of workers build their union from the ground up. Since then she has led contract bargaining with tens of thousands of members, overseen new organizing efforts in three states, and directed a dramatic expansion of the Local’s political, legislative and communications programs. Her proudest moments in the union have been witnessing the development of grassroots leaders who have embraced social movement unionism and led campaigns that won not just for our members, but the working class. Her three sons are pretty important too.
Alphonso D. Mayfield, Jr., President | SEIU Florida Public Services Union
Alphonso has 12 plus years experience in the fields of journalism, politics, labor, and community activism. Since 2009, he has served as President of SEIU-Florida Public Services Union. His advocacy for sustained economic community and cultural improvement is evidenced through his presence in the community as well as through his writings. From 2000 – 2007, Alphonzo was a renowned entertainment and political analyst. He served in the administrations of Mississippi elected officials Governor Ronnie Musgrove, Attorney General Mike Moore, and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. As a campaign consultant, Alphonso worked in many key battleground states including Missouri, Indiana, New Jersey, and Ohio. In 2008, Alphonso served as Executive Director/Campaign Director of the SEIU funded organization Missourians for Quality Home Care. This organization passed a ballot measure entitled the “Quality Home Care Act” and established collective bargaining rights for 12,000 home care workers.
Riko Mendez, Political Director | SEIU Local 521
Riko has worked in labor for the past 10 years. He is currently the Political Director for SEIU Local 521 in California. Riko spent his first 18 years growing up in Soledad, California in the Salinas Valley. He is the oldest of four brothers and studies Sociology and Chicano Studies at UC Davis. Riko’s father is a farmer who grows wine grapes in the Santa Lucia Highlands near the town where he and his family grew up. He is very thankful for his upbringing and for having two parents that supported him and his brothers in all that they wished to accomplish. Riko looks forward to meeting and working with all of the participants and staff at the Rockwood Leadership Institute. This is an extremely important time for labor and working families. Si se puede!
Rahaman Muhammad, President | SEIU Local 617
Born and raised in the City of Newark, Rahaman begin working at the Newark Housing Authority in 1989 as a BMW. After a year on the job, he was elected Shop Steward at the worksite. He volunteered to be on the Grievance Committee where he learned to handle member grievances before an Arbitrator. In 1992, a Business Agent vacancy became available and he was offered and accepted the position. He then became involved in many Community based organizations such as NAACP, APRI and many political campaigns. In 1998, he was elected Executive Vice president and then in 2000, offered the position of Business Manager after the retirement of his mentor John “JJ” Johnson. In 2001, he was elected to the International Executive Board and later that year elected President of local 617 which he currently holds.
Dian Palmer, President | SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin
Dian always wanted to be a nurse when she was young, but she did not consider it a reality until her high school guidance counselor inspired her to pursue her dreams. “I’m the oldest of eight children, and I wanted a career where I could make a living for my family and also give back to the community,” said Palmer. Dian has been a nurse for 25 years, and a member of SEIU for 17 years. Dian is actively involved in improving working conditions and patient care. Currently, she is President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and an Executive Board Member of SEIU. She is a member of the Milwaukee Chapter Black Nurses Association. In addition, she serves as a member of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Board, the UWHCA Public Authority Board of Directors and the Wisconsin Citizen Action Board of Directors. She has three sons and resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Phillip Patrick, Executive Director | SEIU Local 517M
Phillip has held several positions within Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 517M which include: Human Services Support (HSS) Bargaining Team Chief Negotiator, Division President, Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President, Executive Board member, Chief Steward, Steward, Arbitration Specialist, Political Lobbyist (Washington D.C. and Lansing, MI), SEIU International Convention Delegate 2008 & 2012, and Get-Out-The-Vote(G.O.T.V.) Co-Team Leader. Phillip has worked extensively with the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) for 33 years. The highlights of his career developed mainly through his involvement with his union. Phillip enjoyed his work as an Unemployment Claims Worker and as a Liability Examiner. The assistance Phillip was able to provide to the people of Michigan was of great importance to him. The union work was what excited him the most because it contributed to job enrichment as well as local political and community partnerships. Phillip considers it an honor to serve his co-workers and local community in ways that helped everyone, including himself, to improve their lives as public employees and citizens.
Ginette Rivard, President | MSEA SEIU Local 1989
Ginette became president of her local representing 12,000 public sector workers in November 2011 after serving four years as vice president. Building upon her work as a union steward, board member and member political organizer – in 2004 she took a seven-month leave of absence from her job at Maine DHHS to lead the 12-member Heroes program in Maine – Ginette is defending the rights of Maine workers against a Tea Party governor pushing an extreme political agenda. With motivated members and support from coalition partners, her union defeated “right to work” legislation the past two years and also beat it back at the bargaining table. Ginette graduated as a nontraditional student from the University of Maine at Fort Kent the same year her youngest daughter graduated from high school. She has two adult daughters and three grandsons.
Debbie Schneider, Director of Organizational Leadership | SEIU International
Debbie has been organizing workers for 34 years, starting as a clerical worker and rank and file leader of Boston’s 9 to 5 Working Women’s organization and salting as a Wall Street insurance claims examiner when 9 to 5 joined with SEIU in 1981 to form District 925, a national union of office workers. Half of her 29 years at SEIU have been with that local, first as an organizer, finally as the national President, where she also served on the SEIU International Executive Board. Since coming to the International, she has served in several capacities: Central Region Chief of Staff; Global Organizing Director; Deputy Trustee at UHW; Convention Design Team Chair. She has just started in a new role, charged with bringing to life the “Empowering Leaders for a Broad 99% Movement” resolution from the 2012 convention. She has two children, Ruairi and Leilah.
Joe Simoes, Kaiser Division Director | SEIU-UHW (United Healthcare Workers West)
Joe came to this country at the age of 12 from Portugal. He started my journey in the labor movement as a union member in a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island at the age of 16. For the past 26 years, Joe had lots of different roles in the labor movement – from member, steward, organizer local leader. He has organized workers in many different sectors including workers in hotels, restaurants and casinos, the public sector and health care. Joe has travelled extensively, including spending significant time in Brazil over the past 5 years on behalf of SEIU’s global program. After coming to California to participate in the trusteeship of SEIU-UHW, Joe became the Director of the Kaiser Division in 2009, leading 45,000 members in 32 Kaiser Hospitals and 300 facilities across the state of CA. Since 2009, Kaiser Members have protected their union from a decertification attempt and bargained two standard setting contracts that are the model for health care workers across the country. Joe was elected to the SEIU-UHW Executive Committee in 2011.
Keisha Stewart-Robertson, Director | SEIU-UHW (United Healthcare Workers West)
Before joining the union in 2001, Keisha was a rank and file leader from Dignity’s (formally CHW) California Hospital in Los Angeles. She was employed there for 11 years in Women, Children Services more specifically Labor and Delivery, where she organized her co-workers to form a union. She started out in SEIU as a Member Organizer and worked up through the ranks as an External Organizer, Internal Organizer (Union Representative), Chief Negotiator, Lead, Coordinator, Director, and even becoming one of the locals’ Deputy Trustees in 2009. Currently she is working with Organizing Leaders, mentoring & training them to be skilled organizers. She is an Elected Executive Committee Member, Ethics Liaison, President of We Care Enough to Act, and a Board Member of Good Jobs LA. Keisha was recently appointed by Mary Kay Henry to be the Deputy Trustee of SEIU Local 105 in Denver, Colorado.
Susan Tousignant, President | SEIU Local 509
Susan is the President of SEIU Local 509, the Massachusetts Union for Human Service Workers, which includes over 13,000 public and private workers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Susan has been a member of SEIU Local 509 for 30 years, working as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Before being elected president in 2010, Susan has served as a steward, executive board member, and chapter president. Over the course of her work, she has been involved in many contract negotiations, and was instrumental in negotiating a career ladder for counselors that has been used as a model for human service workers throughout the state. Susan received her B.S. in Sociology from the University of Lowell and her M.Ed. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Northeastern University. In addition to her work representing her co-workers, as a rehabilitation counselor, Susan has been a staunch advocate for workers with disabilities throughout her career.
Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President | 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
In June 2010, Veronica was elected to the top leadership position of 1199SEIU in Massachusetts. Turner is the first African-American woman to head a major labor union in Massachusetts. A resident of Brockton, Veronica was born in Dorchester and began her career at Boston Medical Center in the dietary department. Veronica emerged as a natural leader of her peers during the historic merger of Boston City Hospital and Boston University Medical Center in the nineties – a time fraught with uncertainty for caregivers at both hospitals. Veronica says she hopes her election will be the start of a more balanced representation for women and people of color amongst labor’s top leaders in the Bay State. As the executive vice president of the union in Massachusetts, Veronica hopes to continue the track record of success that 1199SEIU has established since its inception in 2005.
Alejandra Valles, VP & Southern Regional Director | SEIU United Service Workers West
For some, the fight for social injustice is born late in life. But for Alejandra Valles – a native of El Paso, Texas – watching her father, a construction worker, and her mother, a garment worker for Lee Jeans, work long hours under the most difficult working conditions was enough to set her on a path that meant dedicating her life to helping other parents and their sons and daughters fight against those who would exploit them. After graduating from the university of Texas 12 years ago, she began to work as an organizer for the AFL-CIO in Louisiana before moving on to the SEIU family at Local 521, Local 99 and in southwest region. Alejandra is currently a Vice President and the Southern California regional director at SEIU United Service Workers West. On her spare time she enjoys running with her two favorite, four-legged companions, Joaquín and Adelita.
Yvonne Walker, President | SEIU Local 1000
In May of 2008, Yvonne became the first African American woman to hold the office of president of SEIU Local 1000, representing state workers from the Oregon border to the Mexican border throughout the State of California. She champions public services that Californians depend on and is a strong advocate for her members that provide those services. Yvonne promotes member engagement. The members of Local 1000 are involved in their communities through programs established by Local 1000 and are very active in politics. Yvonne is very proud and honored to represent the members of Local 1000.