In memory of Former SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Betty Bednarczyk
Betty started working for SEIU in 1960 for SEIU Local 113, “Minnesota’s Healthcare Union.” I first met Betty when I began working at Local 113 in 1980. She immediately took me under her wing, showing me the ropes at every nursing home, bargaining table, hospital labor management meeting, and every other role imaginable in a Local Union.
I witnessed Betty’s commitment to excellence in leadership begin to evolve when she was an office worker who decided to run for a Local 113 leadership position because she believed the members deserved the very best from their union. Betty Bednarczyk strengthened my belief that we can make anything happen when we work together, focus our resources, and unleash our members willingness to take risks and lead.
She was elected to the SEIU International Executive Board in 1983. The following year, Betty helped create and lead a labor-management partnership involving her local union, other unions and the Allina Health System in Minnesota. Her vision helped to create a labor management partnership that was groundbreaking in many ways. For instance, non-union employees were included along with union employees in the partnership.
Betty was elected to serve as an SEIU International Vice President in 1992. She was appointed to lead the SEIU Committee on the Future in the same year. Under Betty’s leadership, this committee engaged in a four-year strategic planning process that included comprehensive research and analysis. The recommendations of this committee became the foundation for the “Bold Action Plan” that guided the work of the union from 1996-2000. The strategic planning process Betty helped develop became a model for SEIU.
According to a long-held rumor, when SEIU engaged in a comprehensive overhaul of its organizational identity in 1997, Betty reportedly launched a campaign to make the union’s new color “purple” so SEIU would have the same standard color as her beloved Minnesota Vikings. The rumor isn’t true. Purple was recommended for strategic reasons to distinguish SEIU from other unions. However, Betty’s love of her Vikings made her an instant fan and champion for the recommendation!
She held many other leadership roles along the way, including: Vice President of the Minnesota AFL-CIO and President of the University of Minnesota Industrial Relations Advisory Council. President Bill Clinton appointed her to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection in the Health Care Industry in 1997.
SEIU’s Executive Officers and I join with everyone in the SEIU family and workers everywhere in mourning the loss of our dear friend, mentor, and leader. We send our deepest sympathy to her family, friends, and loved ones.