LEE member Dominique Warren – a former teacher in Chicago – is currently the Deputy Director of Government Relations at the Services Employees International Union (SEIU). He sits on the climate/environmental justice, immigration justice, and racial justice senior teams and leads work on financial services and campaigns for the SEIU. As the former Legislative Director for Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI 13), he has worked on financial services, trade, labor, education, agriculture, and foreign policy issues. He also served as legislative staff for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
Dominique is an alumnus of Morehouse College and attended Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, where he focused on international trade, national security, economic development, and public finance. Dominique is a 2020 ICAP-Aspen Institute Fellow, 2017 Capitol Hill Fellow, has won numerous innovator awards, and continues to write on topics that move the needle for progress. He has published in various newspapers and magazines such as ESPN's “The Undefeated” digital magazine.
Dominique sat down with LEE Director of Policy & Community Impact, Erin Snow, to discuss his leadership path to his current role at the SEIU; some of their biggest recent policy and organizing wins; and a few key pieces of career advice.
Thank you for sharing your story with us! Could you share about your current role at the SEIU?
As the Deputy Director of Government Relations, I sit in between a lot of work chains. On the federal legislative side, I provide input on general strategy, climate, financial services, and maintaining relationships including members of the “Squad." (Dominique is the former Legislative Director for Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.)
In addition, I sit on the leadership team of the SEIU’s Climate and Environmental Justice team, leading work around how climate change impacts our members and communities. I work on environmental justice issues that our members care about most, including building resiliency from a public health perspective, disaster mitigation, clean energy and air, wildfire mitigation, and social infrastructure.
I also sit on the SEIU’s Immigration Team focused on immigration justice, which includes protecting immigrant workers and advocating for the Dream and Promise Act. Lastly, I support the SEIU’s advocacy campaign strategy to build workers’ political power. We organize and advocate to elected officials around actions related to labor rights, racial justice, and key federal actions to protect and support workers in the service sector.
Wow, that is a lot! How do you feel like this work is going?
We’re at an interesting time at the SEIU. We’re at the frontlines of the COVID pandemic—representing nursing home workers, home healthcare workers, and janitors. Some of our members were the first to contract COVID and are still in harm’s way. On top of that, we had members who were being laid off because, typically, the lowest wage workers get laid off first. [We are] focused on trying to get funding relief for COVID because it’s essential to the workers we represent.
Additionally, the SEIU has a commitment to racial justice issues. We support organizations like The Movement for Black Lives and Working Families Party, and other partners like the Sunrise Movement. SEIU is all in. We represent Black and Brown workers. We don’t believe economic justice can happen without winning racial justice.
We try to lead like we would want our workers to be taken care of. Childcare is a huge issue right now—I have a five-year-old daughter, so this is personal for me.
We’re also seeing as a country that we are not digitally equipped to administer services or have equitable access to the internet.
How did you get to where you are now? Professionally and personally.
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. When I was 15 or 16, there were violent incidents and youth murders happening in the city. I was involved in my community center after school and wanted to do more. My aunt, who was a home healthcare worker and SEIU member, told me I could help with a mayoral campaign. This led me to organizing. After the mayor won, I worked in his office and I started leading campaigns as a field director while in college.
What have been some of your wins related to the CARES Act and other COVID-impacted policy?
The SEIU won some expanded actions to affordable healthcare, Medicaid, and home- and community-based services in the CARES Act. These issues are extremely important to our members and families because our members provide that kind of care. We advocated for additional food and housing assistance, which is crucial for families since kids were sent home from school. We initially won the pandemic unemployment assistance—the $600 a week that had been keeping families afloat. Passage of the HEROES Act in addition to the CARES Act would also help provide additional funding to immigrant workers who were left out of the CARES Act.
Have you worked on anything specifically related to reopening schools amidst the challenges of the pandemic?
The SEIU represents school employees. We have some collective bargaining units in school districts and are also concerned with the safety of students, employees, and their families. Right now we don’t know if schools are funded enough to administer virtual learning or whether they can keep everyone safe for in-person instruction. We are asking districts to take the most cautious approach to ensure safety because they serve Black and Brown communities at a higher risk of infection and serious harm caused by the virus. Passage of the HEROES Act would ensure adequate education funding that allows schools to meet the challenge. Workers should not be laid off during this crisis.
What has been the best career advice you’ve received from a mentor?
First, be intellectually curious. Keep an open mind on different issues. Being intellectually curious opened my eyes to how important traditional schools and districts are, and all the work they do.
Second, treat people with dignity and kindness no matter their occupation. Everyone remembers the people who treated them with kindness and dignity. That imprints on people. You can be successful without acting ruthless, if you operate with kindness.
*The above interview has been transcribed and is in subjects' own words, with edits for clarity or brevity.
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