Auren Hoffman (00:02.225)
Hello, fellow data nerds. My guest today is Mary Kay Henry. Mary Kay is the president of the service employees, international union, the S E I U, which represents 2 million people across U S and Canada. Mary Kay, welcome to World of DaaS. Uh, okay. Now this has been a very significant time to be a union leader, right? There's major movements in healthcare where you are in airport service, in trucking and food service and auto, like really like all over the economy.
Mary Kay Henry (00:19.054)
Glad to be with you.
Auren Hoffman (00:32.734)
Why is this happening now and this wasn't happening five years ago?
Mary Kay Henry (00:37.55)
I think because essential workers who showed up every day to work during the global health pandemic understood that they were making a choice between their life and their livelihood to continue to go. And as we emerge from the pandemic and they witness record profits in some sectors of the economy, working people decided enough is enough. We deserve better.
Auren Hoffman (00:52.136)
Mary Kay Henry (01:07.763)
And I think that's why we're coming out of this amazing summer of strikes and into solidarity season this fall and winter.
Auren Hoffman (01:18.737)
And it, but it's been happening both, both with labor movements and with not like wages have gone up dramatically, especially in the low end. You know, they, a lot of, uh, at least where I live, I've seen a lot of, um, uh, fast food change, which change was maybe used to pay $14 an hour and now paying 20 to $25 an hour. So we're seeing just like significant, very significant changes in just the last few years. Um,
Is it also just like an inflationary thing too, that's putting, that's putting more pressure on some of these businesses and allowing, giving workers more power.
Mary Kay Henry (01:52.194)
Well, I think it's less inflation, Arron, and more about workers deciding what's worth it. Like, am I going to go risk my life for a $12, $11, $15 an hour job? And they withdrew from the workforce and wages went up in order to fill the amazing vacancy rate that we witnessed.
as we emerge from the pandemic. So I thought it was workers voting with their feet and deciding, hey, I can do better than this.
Auren Hoffman (02:30.065)
Yep. Okay. Interesting. And then if there's, and then if you, like, how do you think this is going to play out in the future? Like, you know, from one perspective, you say, okay, well, we were at like peak labor over the last six months. Obviously, that's probably not something you want. You want this to continue. Like, how do you think this plays out over the next few years?
Mary Kay Henry (02:50.822)
I don't think it's going to slow down anytime soon. And now more than ever, I think working people are showing us that we need to rewrite the rules and allow for working people to join together and have a voice. I think what the AFL-CIO did this week with Microsoft, where they extended the right to organize beyond the gaming sector that they had agreed to two years ago to the entire footprint.
of Microsoft is a game changer. And for me, that's a way in which a major corporation decides to rewrite the rules and allow workers to decide for themselves whether or not to join a union. And imagine if...
Auren Hoffman (03:30.625)
I'm not familiar with this whole, with the Microsoft. So walk us through, because that really, that's interesting to this community. We're tech folks, which are not used to being organized.
Mary Kay Henry (03:33.893)
Mary Kay Henry (03:40.994)
Yeah. You know, Microsoft had a fight with the gamers for about 10 years, resisting their willingness to join a union. And then they recently achieved an agreement with the Communication Workers of America. That's where the company announced, hey, we've evolved. We are going to stop our union resisting efforts and we're going to allow workers to decide for themselves. And that was called a labor peace agreement where
There's a set of agreements that the union and the employer achieve about when workers decide they'll sign a card. If there's a majority of the workers that have signed cards for the union, the company will recognize them. And in some cases, they can go vote for an election or the cards become the indicator of the votes. And so that example for the 400 gamers that my Activision Blizzard employed,
Auren Hoffman (04:38.835)
Mary Kay Henry (04:39.866)
Microsoft extended that to the entire company. So it's true for the engineers that are working on AI and that's...
Auren Hoffman (04:48.937)
So if they choose to, they could decide to unionize or something like that.
Mary Kay Henry (04:53.358)
Correct, correct, without the employer hiring a group of attorneys to resist workers deciding to join together.
Auren Hoffman (05:03.533)
Like, who's it makes sense to like, like if you're an AI, like a true AI engineer at Microsoft or OpenAI, I think the average person there probably makes like eight, $900,000 a year. Like who makes sense to actually unionize in that kind of context, in the context like Microsoft?
Mary Kay Henry (05:21.046)
Well, I think it'll be, the workers will decide inside the company. The other aspect of the agreement, Oren, that I just wanted to get in is there's a discussion with Microsoft about how workers are engaged with AI engineers, about the application of artificial intelligence that's being designed by Microsoft all across the economy, which is another great
breakthrough from our perspective where workers get a seat at the table in the sort of upstream design of AI. And hopefully then it can be used to actually augment work and make it better or free people from things that they've wanted to be free from for centuries.
Auren Hoffman (06:07.473)
Yeah. Now Republicans, they definitely seem more pro-labor than the past. You have like senators Vance, Hawley, Rubio, others that seem much more sympathetic to unions than like their direct predecessor, let's say Vance versus like Portman or something. Like why is that happening
Mary Kay Henry (06:29.814)
Well, I think in the case of JD Vance, it was incredibly opportunistic that he understood that the UAW workers that were on strike were challenging the record profits of the big three, the 40% raises that CEOs got in the same period that workers took a huge cut in their wages and benefits. And so...
I thought it was a very smart political choice on his part to join with the strikers in his community. But I want to caution you, Arne, I don't think it's a shift in the entire party's position on unions. Most Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage at the federal level. Most Republicans have been supporting Amazon's efforts to defeat the warehouse workers in
have been trying to get their first contract now for two years. So I think we should see Vance as a test of whether he's going to pull more Republicans to a more pro-union support, which is what's unique about what he's saying.
Auren Hoffman (07:43.153)
No, the, I'd say the average U S person who doesn't, you know, who just kind of, if you just pull them, they would probably be very pro auto union and very anti teacher union right now. Um, if you just like, if you just ask the average American, like, why is such a divergence? Is there just something like, like there's something nice about the auto unions that we think about and they have just a good place in our heart? Or how do you, how do you see that? Uh, divergence.
Mary Kay Henry (08:11.746)
Well, I think the autoworkers touched a nerve that many people feel about growing economic and racial inequality in our country. And when they struck and made the case that profits had gone up, CEO comp had gone up, but the second tier of workers, which is now more than 50% of the big three, were earning $16 and $17 an hour.
didn't have a full retirement, they have a 401k, and they didn't have healthcare benefits equal to the legacy auto workers pre-bankruptcy. So I think that level of inequality made people, it resonated with people who are struggling to make ends meet. And I have to say, Orin, there isn't the distinction that you're making with teachers unions any longer.
Over 70% of the American public support workers of all stripes joining together in unions because I think there's a deep sense that there's a elite group at the top of our economy that are doing better and better while the overwhelming majority of working people struggle to make ends meet.
Auren Hoffman (09:26.505)
And there is kind of like a more of a distrust today of like leaders in general, right? Whether it be CEOs, but I imagine even as a union leader, it must be like a union member may have more distress of a union leader. Like, how do you deal with that?
Mary Kay Henry (09:35.898)
Mary Kay Henry (09:41.438)
Yeah, it's distrust of institutions. And yeah, yeah. The way I deal with it is by going into overdrive on communicating individually with our members and then broadcasting that through technology. That's one way. A second way is by getting every leader at every level of the organization. We have 70 executive board members, 300 local leaders. We have 10,000 stewards. We
Auren Hoffman (09:43.975)
Yep, that's right.
Mary Kay Henry (10:11.774)
political activists and on and on, that we have a way of cascading the communication at every level of leadership so that people can share a vision and mission that drives our action.
Auren Hoffman (10:28.213)
Okay, yeah, that's really interesting. I imagine it's super complicated. And I mean, people don't usually ever do what the CEO says, but I imagine in a labor it's even more difficult.
Mary Kay Henry (10:41.794)
Well, we have to, there's a lot of debate and dialogue, and then there are votes on what we do. And so when people feel ownership over the decision, and it's not just my declaration, there's a way for that decision-making to be owned and then communicated through the whole organization.
Auren Hoffman (11:01.557)
Okay. Now union membership, I think was as high as let's say 30% or so in the workforce in the seventies. Now it's maybe down around 10%. Like, do you see a path for that growing significantly over time? And if so, how?
Mary Kay Henry (11:19.154)
I absolutely see a path. There are signals of hope happening all across the economy. We have 500,000 fast food workers that have set a table in California that are gonna raise wages to $20 in April of 2024 and then be able to set standards on health and safety and racial discrimination and other issues that drive those workers each and every day. If we could replicate that,
and then build membership around it, it explodes organizing on the scale that we need to actually make a change. And in Minnesota, we have gotten 25,000 nursing home workers to a statewide table, and they're gonna begin to bargain next year between the nursing home employers, the government and the workers. And this is an industry that I cut my teeth on.
as an organizer and it took me three years to begin a unionization and then settle a first contract for 100 workers. So we're going to leapfrog to being able to do it for 25,000 workers in the same period of time. And if we could replicate that in every state where nursing home workers join together and build unions, we can then begin to actually go back to that 30% level in the 70s.
There was 30% of the American workforce collectively bargaining. That was raising standards for people all across the service and care industry. And given that our economy is driven by 80% services and care work now, it's really critical that we create this new American labor movement. And I believe it's...
completely possible to both return to that 30% of workers bargaining together and go beyond it.
Auren Hoffman (13:14.973)
Now, if you think about the 70s, it was pretty much the lowest percentage of immigrants in the US, almost any other time in the US, because basically, the US had not really been open since the 20s. It's very hard to get in. Then, right when the mid 70s, we started to see more waves of immigrants coming to the US.
Mary Kay Henry (13:24.395)
Auren Hoffman (13:41.593)
And now I think you have like 13 or so percent of the U.S. immigrants. Obviously a lot of people are children of immigrants and stuff like that. Part of the reason, some people say the wages rose so much and there's so much power was there wasn't a lot of new workers coming in back then. I know the unions have a very mixed view on immigration. How do you think about immigration?
Mary Kay Henry (14:08.482)
We think immigration is the heartbeat of the U.S. economy, and 30% of immigrants are doing care work for elders in this nation, and people are aging 10,000 a day, returning 65, and we're going to need 3 million more care workers in the next 10 years, and immigration is going to be vital to that. Any building and construction trade union would say...
that in order for the infrastructure dollars that the federal government passed last year to actually be shovel ready, they need immigrants as part of their apprenticeship programs. And so I think this broken immigration system that we have today is a killer for the American economy and isn't dealing with what employers need in what we hear every sector, hospitality, healthcare, building and construction, et cetera.
So I really think it's time for us to update the immigration policy in a way that's both humane and deals with secure borders, but both things can be possible at the same time.
Auren Hoffman (15:19.593)
Because on the one hand, obviously just having more people would put a pressure to lower the wages a bit, right? You'd have more supply for labor. But on the other hand, you're right, obviously the economy needs these people to grow. And maybe if you're growing, that's more of a trickle down argument, right? If everyone's growing, then there'll be more for the pie for everybody. So I could see a labor union going both.
past, I could be wrong, but maybe 50 years ago, most of the labor unions were like kind of anti-immigrants. And then they kind of shifted over time.
Mary Kay Henry (15:54.338)
Yes, our union was very proud of the way we moved the rest of the American labor movement in the late 80s, especially when Pete Wilson was attacking immigrants in California. And there was this huge proposition. And we were able to shift and characterize immigrants as hardworking, taxpaying. They pay taxes but can't.
enjoy any of the benefits and that's been shifting over time. But I have to tell you, Orrin, I don't think of it as trickle down. I think that wages go up when people join together and we're very proud of the Fight for 15 movement, making a demand for 15 and then sweeping across the country and now 26 million people are on a path to 15. But we still have like 40 million plus people stuck at 725.
And so we have to figure out a way, even as we embrace immigrants, to raise wages for US-born workers as well.
Auren Hoffman (17:03.669)
Now I recently went to a fast food place in California and right when I show up, there's a, like a huge screen and on the other side of the screen was a person, an actual live person, not an AI, a real person. And they were talking to me and they were taking my order, just like if someone who would behind the counter would be doing, and that person happened to be actually physically in the Philippines, but they were super friendly.
Mary Kay Henry (17:15.799)
Auren Hoffman (17:30.165)
Um, they were, um, you know, they were very knowledgeable. They, um, spoke great, perfect English. Um, and, um, and got my order. Obviously they weren't the ones cooking the hamburgers, but they, they were the ones, they were the ones kind of like dealing with it, getting the order right. You know, um, et cetera, like as I can imagine, as, you know, if you get wage pressure and other types of things, you're going to see fast food places. Like maybe.
Mary Kay Henry (17:30.242)
Mary Kay Henry (17:41.133)
Auren Hoffman (17:55.197)
make more of investment in these other, you know, in the front of the house type of stuff. Obviously, back of the house more difficult, but front of house type of things to automate it. Like how, like, again, if we, we might be able to raise the wage from, let's say it was 12 to $25 an hour, but you know, if, if the number of people go down by half, like that's not necessarily, is that a win or I don't know. How do you think about that?
Mary Kay Henry (17:57.579)
Mary Kay Henry (18:19.19)
I think that we've got to embrace that technology is going to make things more efficient. And our key demand here, Oren, is that workers have a seat at the table in how the technology changes work. I remember a fast food worker saying back to a store manager when he was on strike, the store manager said, we're going to replace you with robots. And the fast food worker shouts back to the store manager.
as long as I can help design the robot. Cause I have figured out the, how to do things faster than you taught me. And I have like a wealth of experience to be able to share. And I think that's a key, you know, like a lot of fast food workers have dreams of other kinds of jobs that they had to give up on because they are trapped in a cycle of intergenerational poverty and don't have.
Auren Hoffman (18:48.245)
Auren Hoffman (18:54.246)
Auren Hoffman (18:58.404)
Mary Kay Henry (19:14.438)
a schedule that allows them to go to school, even at night, because it's so just in time, the scheduling. So I actually think what you just described, most fast food workers would embrace as long as they had a seat at the table and could figure out a way to then skill up into some other job that's being created in the next economy.
Auren Hoffman (19:17.426)
Auren Hoffman (19:37.905)
So if today it takes, let's say, seven people to run a fast food restaurant and it went down to four, like maybe that would be fine as long as they're like, they're enjoying their jobs more and they're getting paid more.
Mary Kay Henry (19:52.366)
And it would be fine if together government, business, working people had a way for the six people that got displaced to get other opportunities. And right now it's all broken. Like there's no thought about the workers that get displaced. They're kind of thrown out the door and they're on their own. But in a union, workers would be thought about in terms of how to skill into another job.
Like we have an agreement with Kaiser Permanente in California that has, I think, in California, 500,000 healthcare workers. Those workers are guaranteed employment security as a result of a collective bargaining agreement. And when AI or technology displaces the medical records clerks, those clerks are trained into the jobs that the employer has shortages.
And if we could have that kind of compact across the economy as AI transforms work, I think working people would embrace it because it then doesn't mean economic, the precariousness of whether or not I can feed my family.
Auren Hoffman (21:06.781)
Now, how do you think of gig work? On the one hand, there are a lot of gig workers who would maybe prefer to be in a full-time job. On the other hand, a lot of them probably see it as a feature where they can have more of a flexible schedule. They can figure out the hours they wanna do. They can do that. I can imagine from a worker's rights, it could go both ways. How do you think about it?
Mary Kay Henry (21:28.75)
Well, we're backing gig workers in California and Massachusetts that are organizing. And in Massachusetts, they just introduced legislation that we're trying to get Uber and Lyft to support that would allow workers to sit at the table with the companies and decide how to deal with the flexibility and minimum standards. And it doesn't have to be the current minimum standards as defined by law.
can we together with the employers create standards that make sense for the workers? Because there's a core group of this workforce that is doing this job full-time and it is the way people are earning a living. And there's another part of the workforce where this job is in addition to some other full-time job that people might have. So I think we just need to be creative and it's just another case, Oren, that if we had a collective
agreement with the employers, I think we could figure it out. Because you're right, we've heard from workers that they want the flexibility, but they also want some minimum standards.
Auren Hoffman (22:39.941)
Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. Um, you know, if you think about like just the decline in membership and attendance in general, since the seventies in our society, we've seen a decline in church attendance, decline in, you know, the Kiwanis club or whatever membership, it's like that bowling alone thing, um, it's obviously also happened in unions, you think it's just like, people don't want to be a member of a group. They're more individualistic than they were back in the seventies.
Mary Kay Henry (23:07.446)
Well, I wish it was that benign, but the reason workers are not in unions is because of an attack. When Scott Walker was elected in Wisconsin, he systematically undid laws that allowed public employees to collectively bargain. So a half a million workers fell out of unions because of his attack. And then he...
moved a right to work law and then he attacked prevailing wages. And so I think 1.5 million workers in Wisconsin lost their union because of his attack on unions. DeSantis just did a similar thing in Florida. We, in the last six months, have lost 30,000 members in SEIU because of his attack. And then there's a freedom foundation that
Auren Hoffman (23:56.737)
So, how does the attack work? Like, what's the, is it just like, they have to opt in instead of opt out? Or how does that work?
Mary Kay Henry (24:06.294)
Well, the old rules were if workers elected to join a union, the school district, the city, the county would bargain a contract, and then the contract would get renewed every three years. In DeSantis' legislation, the union is required by law to re-sign everybody every year. And if the union doesn't hit a 60%...
Auren Hoffman (24:31.057)
Oh my gosh, okay, got it, okay.
Mary Kay Henry (24:35.554)
threshold, it then is required to have an election and then a contract. So for the one million public workers that were covered by collective bargaining agreements, what's happening is that the rules are so onerous that the union movement is spending all of our time kind of reorganizing.
people that we've represented for 60 years in Florida, instead of trying to reach out to workers that are demanding to join together in unions. So it's a great way to tie us down, I would say. Another attack has happened at the Supreme Court level by the Freedom Foundation, which is funded by the Koch brothers. And it's a way to unwind home care workers and childcare workers having a union. And
Basically, the attack was people should not be forced to pay dues. And it opened up voluntary membership. And that undermines the collective bargaining process in state by state. And it makes it much harder for us to get into states that are controlled by Republican governors and legislatures.
Auren Hoffman (25:53.929)
So some of the attack has been on unions and some of the decline has been this attack from like, let's say more conservative forces and stuff. How much of the decline do you think is due to like the unions themselves or the union leadership themselves? Like how much do the unions have to blame for the decline? Usually when a company, you know, if a company was doing a billion in revenues and all of a sudden is doing 500 million in revenues, like, yeah, there might be some societal forces, but like sometimes they blame the CEO and the company itself too.
Mary Kay Henry (26:01.902)
Mary Kay Henry (26:22.174)
Yes, yes, yeah. I think the labor movement shares responsibility, Oren, but I wouldn't say that it's more than like 15 to 30 percent of the problem because it's really any union that is not investing in organizing new workers is responsible for the decline of the labor movement because I assume just like businesses, we have to continue to invest in growth.
Auren Hoffman (26:34.375)
Mary Kay Henry (26:50.214)
in order to strengthen the current members' bargaining power that we currently have. It's why the UAW, just as a concrete example, just bargained a big three contract, but is now opening up a major organizing campaign of the six non-union auto companies that operate in the US.
Mary Kay Henry (27:18.602)
Those workers are now organizing together because they saw what the U.S. auto companies just did at the bargaining table thanks to the auto workers demands. And that's a way that the UAW is investing in expanding the power of workers in the economy.
Auren Hoffman (27:37.713)
There's some laws that just seem like odd, like, you know, these non-compete laws for fast food workers or something like that. Like, it seems like getting rid of some of these non-compete laws, at least for people that say, like, make under $200,000 a year, under $100,000 a year, like, that seems to have, like, very broad bipartisan support. Like, why can't we do some of these little wins?
Mary Kay Henry (27:59.702)
Good question, Oren. Why can't we? It makes me crazy too. I think those things are so ridiculous. So, I mean, it's been the politics of the polarized debate at the national level that makes simple things like this, I think, harder and harder to do. We have been successful in some state level non-compete, eliminating those non-competes.
Auren Hoffman (28:23.529)
Right, like New York has been terrible for years about non-compete, where California, I don't even think they have really. It's very hard to get a non-compete in California.
Mary Kay Henry (28:29.17)
Right. Yeah, but we just eliminated it in California in the fast food sector, finally. But it took state... Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. We had to move state legislation to get it done. So, it is a good point that we want it... That's why the Fight for 15 tried to begin to make progress on wages, city, and then state, and ultimately trying to get to the federal level.
Auren Hoffman (28:35.321)
Oh, they actually, I didn't realize they had it in California in the fast food sector. Okay, oh wow.
Auren Hoffman (28:57.529)
One of the reasons you can think that the tech sector has been so vibrant is there, there are basically no non-competes in the tech sector. Um, and so if you want to move from my Google to Facebook, to Microsoft, to Amazon, to Apple, like you can, um, obviously that's good for wages because, um, people can compete for you for a job, but it's also very good for the, for the tech sector stuff because you're bringing in best practices.
Mary Kay Henry (29:11.598)
Auren Hoffman (29:21.225)
from one, and obviously you can't take any secrets with you, but you can build, okay, this is how we organize. This is, you know, we built our code in microservices, which is kind of something that Amazon kind of really figured out in like the early 2000s and kind of exported to all these other places, right? And so it's just like little knowledge about how, and I can imagine that could be similar with fast food or this could be like a really good thing for all the economy if people have movement to move between jobs, between companies.
Mary Kay Henry (29:49.982)
Yes, yes, yes. And that's why, oh, sorry, go ahead. It's why we think sectoral organizing and bargaining is so critical because it understands that sort of employer-based organization for the labor movement doesn't actually get at trying to both grow and allow for the kind of movement that's happening.
Auren Hoffman (29:52.561)
But, go ahead, go ahead.
Mary Kay Henry (30:17.33)
in this generation of workers. There's no longer the worker in the 30 to 40 year commitment to one employer in the next generation. And you're right, I think we have to figure out a construct and rules that allow for that movement.
Auren Hoffman (30:33.877)
Because a lot of these unions, it's like there's a seniority thing. So if you leave the company, even if you are at a very high seniority and you go to a competing company right across the street, which may all still also have a union, um, you're going to often get a much lower wage scale. So there's very, there's a, it's very, you're not really insented to leave. Um, and, uh, and, and that does seem like it should, you know, just the fact that you don't have this.
unions almost set up a world where like you don't have a lot of labor mobility. It does seem like that would depress wages or you don't agree.
Mary Kay Henry (31:08.222)
I don't agree because it's not unions that establish those rules. Those are the collective bargaining rules that were written in the 30s that frankly have been broken for decades. When the big three and the UAW bargain, the UAW worker carries seniority across the employers that are union.
Auren Hoffman (31:30.893)
Oh, oh it does. Okay, so if I want to go from four to GM, I don't lose my wage. Oh, okay. I didn't realize that.
Mary Kay Henry (31:35.442)
Yeah. No, no. So, but that's because they figured out a, um, their own rules in a private agreement. That's true in Kaiser, by the way, like a Kaiser worker can leave Colorado and move to California and carry their time and service, uh, with them. But that was mutually agreed. Um,
Auren Hoffman (31:46.759)
Mary Kay Henry (31:59.742)
And it was a way frankly for Kaiser to incent workers staying with them rather than going to competitor healthcare systems. But the best.
Auren Hoffman (32:09.813)
Because I know if I'm a flight, let's say I live in San Francisco, of course, you'd probably be a flight attendant for United because it's one of the hubs. And let's say I really want to move to Miami. And if Miami, that would be a hub for American. And so if I want to go from United to American, I'm going to take a very big pay cut as a flight attendant. Because if I, especially if I have 20 years of seniority or something, and so it really would disincent me from, from wanting to make that move.
Mary Kay Henry (32:38.572)
Auren Hoffman (32:41.797)
Okay. All right. Interesting. Now, in electric vehicles, right, they're a lot less complex to assemble than a traditional gas vehicle. In some ways, that means it can make them cheaper to make. It makes it a lot, you need a lot fewer people to assemble because there's a lot fewer parts putting it together. Are there some sort of like tension between labor and the environment?
Mary Kay Henry (33:09.474)
You know, historically there have been, Oren, but I would say that in the last 10 years, there's been a lot of work done inside the labor movement and the environmental movement to say we need to think about a just transition from a fossil fuel based economy where 3 million workers in the US are union workers in that sector and how do they transition to the clean energy economy, which...
is more non-union in the US than it is in other parts of the world and is much lower wage. So I think a key question for the labor movement with the environmental movement is how are we insisting on that just transition? In Germany, in Scandinavia, those countries have a tripartite agreement between the industry, the government, and the unions.
about how to transition the current fossil fuel workforce into the clean energy workforce and not have their economic livelihood drop. And you can imagine that's kind of otherworldly sounding to US employers, but it would be totally liberating and it would catalyze the speed of the transition if we could deal with that issue.
Auren Hoffman (34:30.845)
Now in 68, like the Teamsters endorsed Nixon for president. Now maybe partially that was due. I think there was like backroom deal to get a pardon for Hoffa for the endorsement. And there might've been some other weird backroom things going on back then. But can you imagine a scenario where like a major union in the future endorses Republican president?
Mary Kay Henry (34:55.787)
No, not in the current policy direction and frankly, sort of hate-filled, autocratic direction that Republican presidential candidates are taking the country. And so, I think we as the labor movement have to stand in this moment as a key bulwark.
of maintaining a democracy. And we have members inside of SEIU and across the American labor movement that are registered Republican, that vote Republican at the local and state level. We have those members participate in our candidate endorsement process when we ask questions or we test candidates. But more and more of the Republican members inside our union.
understand that the federal level Republican candidates no longer represent their interests. And so I can't imagine that scenario, certainly not in this next presidential election 2024.
Auren Hoffman (36:09.609)
But even let's say in 2020 or 2032, there's a, yeah, let's say a candidate Vance or a candidate Holly or something like that. Can you see some of these unions or do you think it's even in the next 20 years, it's unlikely?
Mary Kay Henry (36:22.934)
Well, I think it depends on like, for me, it's not simply the candidate and our members are smart enough to understand that there's a whole infrastructure and moneyed interests behind these candidates. And so if Vance were to totally be able to refashion all the operating agreements inside the Republican Party or maybe that could be considered.
I have to tell you, Josh Hawley kind of tipping his hat to unions and workers while at the same time, pumping his fist in the air for the insurrection is not, that's not a difference that can be reconciled.
Auren Hoffman (37:09.109)
As being a leader, I'm just interested, I mean, you run an extremely complex organization and what advice would you have for other leaders and whether they could be running public companies, whether they'd be running large multinational NGOs, et cetera. You've been doing this for quite a long time. What advice would you have for them?
Mary Kay Henry (37:36.598)
Well, that's so exciting to be asked because I would love for more companies in the US to follow Microsoft's lead and to embrace the idea that the frontline workforce has a wealth of experience to contribute. And I would love to figure out with current leaders in the business leadership of the US, how we could
embrace a style of unionism in a 22nd century economy where workers have a say and that we close the inequality gaps in ways that other countries around the world are doing, but that we should be a leader in. And so my advice, my key advice would be to go to the front lines and listen.
and then create a mechanism for the front lines to have an organized say through their organization in the future of the company.
Auren Hoffman (38:41.193)
things like a term limit for either a CEO, a leader of a union, leader of a major institution? Like do you think that there's something about like turnover and stuff that revitalizes some of these things? Or do you think it's like someone's doing an amazing job? Like let's keep him going.
Mary Kay Henry (38:59.618)
Um, I think both things are true, Oren. And so we have several locals in our union where term limits are a, a part of the, the function of the union. And in some cases, I find them destabilizing the term limits because the term is two years. Um, yeah. And then when the term is 10 years.
Auren Hoffman (39:02.633)
Auren Hoffman (39:21.333)
Okay, so it's not long enough yet.
Mary Kay Henry (39:27.95)
We're watching an experiment in one of our locals in Washington state where I think it had the impact that you're saying. It's fresh perspective. It added a sort of boost of energy.
Auren Hoffman (39:38.901)
Got so 10 works and two is 10's good. You know, okay. Yeah. That to me, that makes sense for a CEO. Like if you think of like, you know, Michael Eisner at Disney, he was there for 20 years, the first 10, he was amazing. The last 10, you know, I don't think it was that great. Same thing with Jack Welch, right? So he was 20 years, first time were quite good. The last 10, not so good. So, you know, you, you could, you could see a scenario where like, you know, 10 to 12 seems like the, the max, you know, and then after that, maybe they're, they're not innovating as much afterwards.
Mary Kay Henry (39:42.918)
Yeah. And then at the national.
Mary Kay Henry (39:53.791)
Mary Kay Henry (40:07.234)
Yeah, interesting. The key question is whether it's enforced or understood as a good leader. Hey, I need to pass the baton.
Auren Hoffman (40:09.757)
Auren Hoffman (40:16.541)
Right. Obviously in the presidents, it was always just understood until FDR just like kept it going. And then we had to like create a rule around it. A couple of personal questions. Your friend and former colleague, Lafonza Butler, she was just appointed to be a US Senator in California following the death of Senator Feinstein. I imagine that made you feel like really, really great.
Mary Kay Henry (40:33.293)
Mary Kay Henry (40:38.466)
Oh yeah, it was so, it was thrilling when we.
Auren Hoffman (40:41.737)
Were you surprised? I was very surprised by that appointment. To me, that just seemed like, you know, normally you pick like a politician. It's like before when we had an opening, I think he picked like the former attorney general or the current attorney general of California or something. Um, like that, that seemed a little bit out of left field to me, but maybe, but you're much more in, you know, uh, in the, in the know of politics. Like, was that surprising to you?
Mary Kay Henry (41:02.882)
Well, I knew that Governor Newsom had deep respect for La Fonza's political acumen and strategy when she led our California State Council and she led the local union of 400,000 home care and nursing home workers in California. And she was a key player in getting California to be one of the first states to move to a $15 minimum wage. So I knew that they had
a deep experience together that was more than shaking hands at big events and stuff. But I agree with you, Orin. I was surprised because it was like reaching beyond current electeds or people that thought that was their due and lifting up somebody who is incredibly accomplished in her own right.
but certainly not a traditional pick.
Auren Hoffman (42:03.141)
Yeah, yeah, I thought it was quite interesting. Okay, we asked two closing questions to everybody. What is a conspiracy theory that you believe?
Mary Kay Henry (42:14.358)
You know, I thought to myself, I should have called you and said, okay, or and help me out with a range of conspiracies from which I could pick because it's really not a world that I spend a lot of time in, you know? And so the one thought I had was, I don't know if this qualifies as a conspiracy, which is that I believe in gaming the system.
because I think the system is rigged against individuals and organizations like the labor movement. And so I believe in that, that part of what we have to do as we fight to rewrite the rules or create new systems and structures so that everybody can thrive, is that we have to understand that in the meantime, in order to...
sort of unrig the system, we're gaming it at the same time. Does that qualify? Okay.
Auren Hoffman (43:14.545)
Now I've got, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Now, what, what am I like if I had to like, uh, assess your personality, we, we've become, uh, friends over the last few years and had many dinners together and stuff like that. Um, I feel like you're extremely open to ideas, like much more open than you would expect a, like a leader who's like in politics and like fighting every day.
to be like, you're open to just hearing about things. You're open to hearing like what the other side's perspective is. It seems like you're even open to changing your mind about even very, very big issues. Like, is that something like deeply rooted from like childhood and your personality? Or like, how does like, cause I just, you know, like obviously, like if you just think of a stereotypical, like political or union leader or you know, whatever, you just wouldn't expect them to be that way.
Mary Kay Henry (43:42.658)
Mary Kay Henry (43:52.097)
Mary Kay Henry (44:02.922)
Yeah, I think it's rooted in my experience in the labor movement, Oren, that needing to be open to contrasting ideas in a period where I've been in a movement that has been declining my entire life. As we said at the top, we're now at 10%. And so it's made me open to figuring out how do we confront corporate power.
and structural racism. And when you're trying to take on those two big challenges, you better be open to a whole host of ideas because we have not been on a winning path.
Auren Hoffman (44:44.369)
Uh, so it's easy to change your mind if you're losing, right? Cause then it's like, okay, well, I'm like, I might as well be open to it's like, yeah, imagine if like you're mentioning, you're a baseball player and you haven't been hitting that well and someone's like, Oh, actually, you know, move your shoulder a bit, you'd be like, Oh, I'll, I'll be open to this. Like, why not? Okay. I see that.
Mary Kay Henry (45:01.342)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's born out of a need to take big risks and fail, and in order to succeed for working people.
Auren Hoffman (45:12.041)
Okay, interesting. All right, last question we ask all of our guests. What conventional wisdom or advice do you think is generally bad advice?
Mary Kay Henry (45:22.079)
Mary Kay Henry (45:28.918)
You know, the first thing that popped into my mind was...
take your time. I don't think the world, given the pace of change, allows for as much kind of slow deliberation as maybe when I first entered the workforce 40 years ago. And so I think a willingness to decide and act and fail and then recover and do something different.
it needs to become much more conventional. And it's inside the labor movement, maybe Oren is more in than in data. The need to sort of fail faster needs to be adopted so that we can grow workers power and the level of inequality that families are up against.
Auren Hoffman (46:32.297)
It sounds like a cultural thing. Like how do you, like changing culture is very, very hard. Like how does one do that?
Mary Kay Henry (46:37.332)
Um, I think it's, I think it's sort of naming the culture that is, and then, um, helping people understand if we changed what could be possible together. That's how we are going to try and do it inside of SEIU. My secretary treasurer, April Barrett, is kind of the driver of this culture change right now.
Mary Kay Henry (47:10.27)
name the current culture and begin to get agreement on the features of the culture we want to create that will make it better for workers to have the power they need to change their lives.
Auren Hoffman (47:25.105)
All right, this has been awesome. Thank you, Mary Kay Henry for joining us on World of Deaths. By the way, I follow you at Mary Kay Henry on Twitter. I definitely encourage our listeners to engage you there. This has been a lot of fun.
Mary Kay Henry (47:36.13)
Auren Hoffman (47:37.681)
All right, this is great. Thank you very much.
Mary Kay Henry is the president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 2 million people in unions across the US and Canada.
In this episode of World of DaaS, Auren and Mary Kay discuss the current surge in the labor movement and what it means for American companies and workers. Mary Kay breaks down some recent developments, including Microsoft's agreement with the Communications Workers of America around unions for game developers.
The conversation also delves into political dynamics, exploring the evolving relationship between Republicans and labor, with Mary Kay providing nuanced insights into why some newly elected figures in the Republican party seem to be evolving on labor issues. They also discuss the effects of immigration on the country’s labor market over the last 50 years, and where the labor movement stands on immigration today.
The episode concludes with Mary Kay sharing advice for CEOs, discussing term limits, and even delving into a conspiracy theory she finds intriguing. The conversation offers a unique glimpse into Mary Kay's leadership philosophy, advocating for a culture of agility and a proactive approach to challenges within the labor movement.
Ben Horowitz is the cofounder and CEO of Andreessen Horowitz, the most influential venture capital firm of the last 20 years. Ben and Andreessen Horowitz (also known as a16z) have invested in some of the biggest companies out there, including AirBnb, Coinbase, Facebook, Instacart, GitHub and Oculus.
Prior to his VC career, Ben founded Opsware/Loudcloud, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion. He’s also the author of the bestselling books 'The Hard Thing About Hard Things' and ‘What You Do Is Who You Are.’
In this episode of World of DaaS, Auren and Ben discuss data moats, AI vs software, and the nuances of the modern VC. Ben starts by exploring whether AI will eat the world like software has, and who the winners and losers of the AI revolution might be.
They also explore one of Ben’s best-known management concepts: wartime to peacetime CEOs, and how every CEO should be thinking about strategy and adaptability during broader tech headwinds. Ben's offers a candid perspective on how to build the right culture and what sets Andreessen Horowitz apart in the venture capital world.
Tim Urban is the creator of Wait But Why, a blog with over half a million monthly subscribers. He writes about productivity, science, politics and the future.
Tim and Auren discuss some of Tim’s biggest ideas around technology, including cryonics, life extension, and artificial superintelligence. They break down Tim’s framework for understanding political polarization and Tim shares his unique perspective on tackling some of life’s biggest challenges, from beating procrastination to marrying the right person.
You can find Auren Hoffman on Twitter at @auren and Tim on Twitter @waitbutwhy or on his blog Wait But Why.