Iris Altamirano will take over as president in June as Morillo joins the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University
Governor Walz, Lt. Governor Flanagan, Senators Smith & Klobuchar and AG Ellison all praise his leadership and support transition
MINNEAPOLIS — 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 Rutgers University 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.
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.
“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.”
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 the 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.
He also is known for his work to help elect candidates for office who will fight for working families. In response to the news of his upcoming departure, multiple elected officials shared their appreciation for Morillo and the work he has done over the last 14 years, praising the powerful position he is leaving SEIU Local 26 in as he heads towards the next step in his career.
“In addition to our valued friendship, one of the things I most appreciate about Javier is his willingness to engage meaningfully with Minnesotans from many different backgrounds. He understands that building a progressive future means listening carefully to each other, respecting differences of race, culture, and zip code, and coming together as One Minnesota. It’s how he’s led Local 26 in winning big victories for working people; it’s how he helped win the freedom to marry for Minnesotans; and it’s how he will keep leading our state to a brighter future. Congratulations as well to the members of Local 26. We look forward to continuing to work with your new leadership to build One Minnesota where all can thrive.”
—Governor Tim Walz
“I’ve worked closely with Javier for 15 years to build power for low-income people, people of color, and indigenous people. He’s been a bold leader who has not shied away from taking on tough fights to win higher wages and better working conditions, protect access to affordable health care, ensure immigrant communities are treated with dignity, and protect our right to vote. In that time, he’s also become one of my best friends and a role model to my daughter. He’s shown her, me, and our entire state that you can build a powerful multiracial workers’ movement that is led by immigrants and people of color. By deliberately transitioning the leadership of Local 26 to a new generation of women leaders of color, he’s setting another bold standard for us in Minnesota. While I’ll miss having him at SEIU, I’m proud that he will be sharing his stories of our victories in Minnesota with the rest of the country. Congratulations to Iris Altamirano and the entire Local 26 team. We continue to stand with you and your fight for a more just Minnesota.”
—Lt. Gov Peggy Flanagan
“Javier has been one of the most critical leaders in Minnesota and in the union movement for years. I’m sure he’ll continue to be a major force wherever he goes. It’s impossible to imagine that anyone might be able to take his place, except Iris Altamirano fits the bill. What a wonderful choice for working people.”
—Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
“Many people know Javier as a public figure who has built a powerful union that punches above its weight and wins great victories for working people. I know him as those things, too, and I also know and deeply value him as a keen strategist and trusted advisor behind the scenes. In the 15 years we’ve known each other—whether I’ve been in the Mayor’s office, the Governor’s office, or the U.S. Senate—I’ve turned to him for advice at many big decision points. He’s one of the most strategic people I know, so the thoughtfulness that he’s put into this transition—carefully handing off a dynamic union to a new and diverse team of leaders—doesn’t surprise me at all.”
—US Senator Tina Smith
“I’ve seen Javier tirelessly fight for working families over the last 14 years and I look forward to continuing this work together. From fighting to raise wages and pass comprehensive immigration reform or pushing our state and country to be a more welcoming place for all our families, Javier and SEIU Local 26 have been leading the way. I’m excited for his new opportunity and look forward to working with Iris Altamirano and the new leadership of SEIU Local 26 on our shared goal of creating a future where all Minnesota families can flourish.”
—Senator Amy Klobuchar
SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 6,000 janitors, security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 225,000 property services workers nationally, and over 2 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.
Minneapolis Works is the worker-led coalition of community, labor and faith groups fighting to improve economic and racial equity in Minneapolis