Summary of telephone interview with Lina Bracero, SEIU, on April 8th, 2016.
Lina Bracero is the current Deputy Director of Healthcare Advocacy at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where she has extensive experience mobilizing a large member base to political action. Her former positions as Political Capacity Coordinator and Political Training Director have given her vast experience in the strategies used to mobilize union members to political action.
Bracero began her career in union work at UNITE HERE after her mother, a former member of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union, retired. Bracero was helping her mother with her paperwork and saw an opening for a position as a retiree administrator. Soon after, Bracero was assigned to work on election campaigns, which gave her a sense of the importance of the labor movement and its functions.
After moving on to SEIU, she continued to work in the political arena. Bracero says there is nothing she doesn’t like about this fast-paced kind of work because of the benefits that result for members, who feel empowered by speaking up and engaging in the political process. As the current advocate for healthcare at SEIU, Bracero uses tactics similar to those she employed when working on political campaigns. She explains that she has gone “knocking on doors, to make sure that people just knew about the reality of healthcare was here, that healthcare is for everyone”. Although there can be challenging moments, Bracero makes sure she is “in a place where I feel passionate and ready to lead” in order to continuously bring people out.
Bracero says that she uses varying strategies to mobilize different populations because of the importance of solidarity in union work. She says that “the more members can interact and engage with each other, the more they find that mutual ground of respect, the better it is for any fight that we have.” Having everyone on the same page and receiving the same information allows for positive interactions between members of different backgrounds.
When it comes to the mobilization of marginalized groups like Latinos and African- Americans, Bracero says they accept the call to action because they are part of struggle. Tapping into a marginalized communities’ struggle for equal footing can push them to engage in a political campaign. Bracero says it can be easier to engage them in the political process by highlighting that they are deserving of equal treatment in society, and that this can be achieved by electing officials into office that will support and advocate for their communities.
While some campaigns prove to be more challenging than others, Bracero says an important takeaway for the members should be that they can exert a positive influence on the political system. She makes sure that her members know she “is going to treat them right” and that they “are going to get through whatever it is together” no matter the difficulty of the campaign. Bracero says “it’s what those members say or do as they walk away that make me feel like that they had done something good or that I had helped them in some way.” By being an active presence in the communities she mobilizes, Bracero has built strong relationships with members and hopes to continue exciting them about engaging in the political process.