After serving for over 14 years as president of SEIU Local 26, Javier Morillo is stepping down in June of this year. The Executive Board of the union, following union bylaws, elevated Iris Altamirano to be the next president when Morillo steps down in June. Morillo will be joining the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations as a Minnesota-based program fellow.
“I love this union, and working alongside and for our members will always be the greatest honor of my life,” said Morillo. “But all organizations must change as the world around us changes. And today we have an amazing group of leaders ready to step up and lead. Theirs is the energy and creativity that will lead the union in the next phase of its work.”
Javier Morillo became president of Local 26 in 2005. During his 14 years as president, the union has doubled in size to almost 8,000 members in security, janitorial, airport and windows cleaners, winning industry-standard contracts across these sectors. Morillo said he felt comfortable leaving his role because of the strong team that has been built at the union, featuring a majority immigrant, people of color led staff that includes many leadership roles filled by people coming directly from union membership.
Iris Altamirano, a Cornell University graduate and the daughter of an immigrant janitor, has served on staff at SEIU Local 26 for more than 4 years, working in every department at the union. As the new president of SEIU Local 26, she will be joined by a leadership team that represents the union's diverse membership. Altamirano will be the first Latina president of SEIU Local 26.
"I am so honored to have the opportunity to follow Javier as leader of this powerful union. Over my time working here, I have seen our union grow, both in staff and in membership, but what I have most seen are great people building strength with incredible determination to win the fights we need to win for families,” said Altamirano. “As the daughter of an immigrant janitor, I know the power of working people. I know the power of a fighting union. Javier is leaving big shoes to fill, but come June I am ready to continue and build on the amazing work he has done for the last 14 years."
Elia Strarkweather, a longtime member of SEIU Local 26 and vice president, shared her appreciation for the thoughtful transition after 14 years.
“Managing this leadership transition well has been very important to me because we haven’t gone through anything like this before. Although it will hurt to say goodbye to Javier, I know that in our union we have always stepped up to any challenge we have faced,” said Starkweather. “We are stronger than ever. We are a family filled with love, passion and strength, and we are determined to make life better for ourselves and all workers. We know that when we fight, we win!”
The leadership transition is happening now to allow time for the new president and leadership team to be ready to head into negotiations for a new multi-year contract later this year. The last round of negotiations saw workers across the metro head out on strike to win big gains in their contract. Morillo has helped build a strike fund of over a million dollars to allow for members to have the ability to continue to fight for and win strong contracts that ensure SEIU Local 26 members -- white, black or brown, across multiple industries -- can live, not just survive.
Javier will begin as a fellow at CIWO in June when he formally steps down as president. Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers, shared her excitement in welcoming Javier.
"The Center for Innovation in Worker Organization is proud to welcome Javier as a fellow of our program in June of this year after he steps down from his role as president of SEIU Local 26 in Minnesota,” said Sneiderman. “Under Javier’s leadership SEIU Local 26 has earned a national reputation as a creative and risk-taking force for raising standards for low wage workers, especially immigrants and people of color. Javier’s experience and perspective will be an invaluable contribution to our mission of reimagining worker organization."
In addition to building SEIU Local 26 into a nationally recognized union, Morillo also has been at the center of immigrant justice fights, winning marriage equality in Minnesota and creating coalitions alongside faith and community groups that have helped fight back against Minnesota's gnawing racial and economic disparities.