This historic election, which took place during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, makes her the first AAPI to serve as an international officer at the union and one of the highest-ranking Asian Americans in the labor movement today.
To celebrate this achievement, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) in Washington, D.C., held a reception in her honor and in recognition of her achievements at SEIU and decades as an activist. At the event, she reminded others that all communities are stronger together.
"Together, we know our diversity is the key heading toward November," said Blue.
SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, who attended the event, said, "Blue has dedicated her life to helping workers have a voice at work and build a better future for their families. She has been a trailblazer for the AAPI community and continues that tradition as she becomes the first-ever SEIU Executive Vice President of AAPI descent. We are so energized to have her serve in this role as we continue to partner with APALA and the broader AAPI community to further advance our fight for economic, immigrant, racial and environmental justice for all.”
Some 2 million women and men in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico working in healthcare, public services and property services are members of SEIU, which is known as North America’s most diverse large union. About 40 percent of SEIU members are people of color, and languages spoken across the membership range from English, Spanish and Tagalog to Vietnamese, French and Polish.
Prior to her new position at SEIU International, Blue served as Chief Elected Officer of SEIU Local 521, which represents more than 55,000 public service workers who provide vital community services from the Silicon Valley down the Monterey-Santa Cruz coast and into California’s Central Valley. Before becoming CEO at Local 521, Blue served as president of Local 400, representing city and public sector employees, making her the first local union AAPI president.
Blue’s beginnings in the labor movement started 40 years ago when as a registered nurse at San Francisco General Hospital in 1977, she joined the union, where she became more empowered and active, and helped organize a successful campaign that resulted in improved patient care, improved patient-to-nurse ratios and better working conditions for healthcare workers. At the hospital, she demanded that patients diagnosed with AIDS be given the right to compassionate care and urged public health officials to provide training for all county healthcare and hospital employees to allay fears of infection and to institute health and safety. Later, she expanded the fight to unite nurses on a national level as a founding member of the SEIU Nurse Alliance.
Her work as a labor activist also includes organizing health care workers at Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas and organizing thousands of Transportation Security Administration workers, skycaps and baggage handlers at San Francisco International Airport, a workforce that is about 80 percent AAPI.
While she is a well-known leader in the labor movement across the United States, many Filipinos in the Bay Area and throughout California know of Blue because of her passion for building better futures for all families. Many will recall her from her days as a community activist when she publicly denounced the Marcos dictatorship and led events to bring attention to his anti-worker regime.
Her parents, who immigrated from the Philippines, instilled in her a drive to help others. Blue never forgot her parents’ struggles, which led her to fight for immigrant nurses so they could provide healthcare in the United States. She also fought for labor rights for undocumented sweatshop women garment workers in Alameda County.
In her new position at SEIU, Blue will serve as the AAPI spokesperson for iAmerica, a partner of SEIU, providing tools and resources for immigrant families to encourage them to be involved in democracy. iAmerica has partnered with APIAVote to advance civic engagement among immigrants by registering voters, educating voters through citizenship workshops and participating in elections.
Blue’s SEIU position provides opportunities for her to lead the AAPI community at a time where the stakes are high for immigrant families. With Asian Americans now the fastest-growing community of color in America, Blue will work with iAmerica’s Latino leader Rocio Sáenz to lead the way in making history by growing the New American Electorate.
Leading up to the presidential election, Blue will focus on SEIU’s AAPI engagement on comprehensive immigration reform, dismantling structural racism, economic justice in the Fight for $15 and electing Hillary Clinton. Blue believes Clinton will fight, win and deliver. Blue will spread the message that Donald Trump’s policies are not good for AAPI voters or anyone.
Amihan David, based in California is part of the immigration team at SEIU and iAmerica. As a child growing up in the Bay Area, she marched in rallies denouncing the Marcos dictatorship.