$30K for pizza? No wonder nearly one-third of workers reject SEIU HCII union

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
May 9, 2024

$30K for pizza? No wonder nearly one-third of workers reject SEIU HCII union

Not even one-quarter of SEIU HCII’s spending is on representing workers – which should be its main priority. Yet dozens of its own employees make six-figure salaries and it has increased its spending on politics by nearly 9%. Oh, yeah: plus spent over $30,000 at a pizza parlor.

Nearly one-third of workers represented by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, or SEIU HCII, don’t seem to think the union’s services are worth their money.

And those who are members should be asking about the union’s spending, including over $30,000 to a single pizza restaurant.

The union’s website claims it represents more than 91,000 workers in four states, but its most recent report to the U.S. Department of Labor revealed it has just over 62,000 members.

That means at least 29,000 workers represented by SEIU HCII have rejected union membership.

How can a union represent more workers than are members? State or local government workers don’t have to be members of the union representing their workplace if they don’t want to be members. Workers can choose not to be members when they are hired, or they can opt out of membership later.

But why would an employee reject union membership? In this case, SEIU HCII’s spending practices provide a clue:

  • Not even one-quarter of SEIU HCII’s spending is on representing members, which should be its core priority.
  • In stark contrast to the service workers the union represents, 39 of the union’s own officers and employees make six-figure salaries.
  • SEIU HCII spent more than $3 million on politics in 2023, a 9% increase from the year before.
  • Then there are all the questionable disbursements – such as over $30,000 to a single pizza restaurant.

Not even one-quarter of SEIU HCII’s spending in 2023 was on representing members

Each spring SEIU HCII files a report called an LM-2 with the U.S. Department of Labor. In that report, SEIU HCII details how it obtained and spent money in the previous fiscal year.

The union’s most recent report shows it spent very little last year on “representational activities,” which the Department of Labor defines as including the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement and the administration and enforcement of the resulting contract.

SEIU HCII’s total reported spending in 2023 was $54,875,235. Yet just over $12 million of that amount was on representing its members. That’s less than 23% percent of its overall spending.

The rest was spent on politics, administration and other union leadership priorities.


To put this in perspective, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance states at least 65% of a nonprofit’s total expenses should be on program activities.

While the Wise Giving Alliance evaluates spending by charities, it stands to reason SEIU HCII’s spending of less than 23% on representation – the purpose of a union – should be a cause for concern among members.

Dozens of SEIU HCII’s own employees took in six-figure salaries – in stark contrast to the wages of its members

Those who work for SEIU HCII are well compensated. The top 10 union staffers all made over $127,000 in 2023, with 39 of its officers and employees earning six-figure incomes.

This is in stark contrast with the wages of the workers it represents.

For example, the union represents thousands of workers providing care through government-funded programs, such as personal assistants in Illinois’ Home Services Program or child care providers in the Child Care Assistance Program.

Personal assistants receive $17.25 an hour as of Dec. 1, 2022, according to SEIU HCII’s collective bargaining agreement with the state. A new collective bargaining agreement has not yet been finalized.

Child care providers receive a daily rate, per eligible child, dependent on the county and the age of a child. A child care provider in Cook County providing a full day of care for an eligible 3-year-old would receive $40.65 for the day. A provider in Peoria County would earn $36.59 for the same child, and a provider in La Salle County would earn $33.91. If the care is less than five full hours, providers receive only a part-day rate.

The most a child care provider can receive is a daily rate of $47.96 for an eligible child under 2 years of age in Cook County. As with personal assistants, a new collective bargaining agreement for child care providers has not yet been finalized.

Personal assistants and child care providers are then pressured by SEIU HCII to be members, handing over between $264 to $1,260 a year in dues.

Child care provider and former SEIU HCII member Janice Singleton has explained, “I am paid by the state between $38 and $41 per child per day. That comes out to less than $4 per hour most days since I will care for children sometimes up to 11 hours. After the day care expenses, taxes and union dues, some days I am not even making minimum wage.”

SEIU HCII spent over $3 million on politics in 2023 – a nearly 9% increase from the previous year

SEIU’s LM-2 revealed it spent $3,419,016 on political activities and lobbying in 2023, compared to $3,115,696 in 2022. That’s a nearly 9% increase.

That spending includes funneling more than $2.6 million to its own political action committee. From there, SEIU HCII can spend the money on any political cause it wants.

One example: the political committee of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. According to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections, SEIU HCII and its PAC have contributed more than $1.9 million to the mayor’s political career, even though the union receives dues from and supposedly represents care givers all over the state – not just in Chicago.

SEIU HCII spends money in other questionable ways

SEIU HCII spent over $1.1 million on airlines, car rentals, other transportation, hotels, catering and restaurants in 2023. Just under $311,000 of that spending was itemized for purposes such as “conference travel” or “special event.” And even then, there is no concrete indication what the “special events” were.

The remaining – more than $800,000 – was for generic purposes such as “airlines” or “lodging” – or for no specified purpose at all.

Union members can only guess how or why the union spent more than three-quarters of that money.

Examples of the unspecified spending include the following:

  • Nearly $290,000 on restaurants and catering, including over $30,000 to “Connie’s Pizza”
  • Nearly $214,000 on hotels
  • Over $147,000 to airlines

SEIU HCII members unhappy with the union can opt out of membership and stop paying dues

State and local government workers may not agree with the union’s spending practices, or they may feel the union doesn’t represent them well. Whatever the reason, they don’t have to be union members to keep their jobs.

As former SEIU HCII member Karena Cozad put it, “There’s no benefit to [being in the union.] As far as I’m concerned, union [leaders] seem to be out for themselves.”

By opting out of union membership, workers can stop paying dues to the union yet retain all benefits that are provided in the collective bargaining agreement with their government employer. That includes personal assistants and child care providers who are paid by the state.

For more information on how to opt out, visit LeaveSEIU.com.

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