Tom Woodruff has overseen organizing for the nation's largest and fastest-growing union since 1996 and has served as a top-ranking officer since 2000. His efforts over the past decade alone have helped well over 1 million workers unite their strength in SEIU.
In 2005, Woodruff played a pivotal role in leading the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union out of the AFL-CIO to focus on large-scale, coordinated organizing campaigns across industries with six other major unions in an effort known as Change to Win, now a new labor federation representing nearly 6 million members. Woodruff was chosen to direct the federation's Center for Strategic Organizing, with the goal of helping ensure that the nine out of 10 American workers not yet in a union have the opportunity to benefit from a 21st century, global economy.
Developing innovative campaign models to restore hope for workers and their families is nothing new for Woodruff. He began organizing in 1974 in West Virginia for 1199, the National Healthcare Workers Union, which affiliated with SEIU 15 years later. By 1980, he was elected president of a then 1,000-member District 1199 West Virginia/Kentucky/Ohio. He successfully initiated the first major service-sector organizing drive in a region in which hostile laws historically prevented all but workers in the mining industry the freedom to form a union. In addition, he focused on helping mostly working-class women in hospitals and nursing homes unite their strength to have a voice in the quality of care, which in turn raised standards for both patients and caregivers in Appalachia.
In 1992, Woodruff was elected to serve on SEIU's International Executive Board. By 1996, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to oversee national organizing when SEIU members elected a new leadership team headed by Andy Stern, the once tiny local union had grown into a powerful organization that gave voice to 13,000 workers and their families in some of the most rural landscape in the United States.
In a dramatic departure from past practice in the labor movement, SEIU spends half its annual budget to help more workers unite in the union, gain a voice on the job, and improve our communities. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is the largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care; the largest property services union, including building cleaning and security; and the second largest public employee union.
Woodruff continues to split his time as International Executive Vice President of SEIU and as a chief architect for Change to Win, in order to help millions of workers in transportation, retail, construction, health care, and other services form unions. His focus remains on strategies that unite workers who do the same type of work, so they can elevate standards across the board in major industries on issues such as pay, health care, staffing, training, and retirement.