Freedom To Marry

The gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide

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Voices of Equality: Mary Kay Henry

Mary Kay HenryMary Kay Henry has devoted her life to helping America's health caregivers form unions, improve their jobs and the quality of care, and advocate for a more rational and humane health care system. During her 25 years as an organizer and leader in the nation's largest health care union, she has played a major role in helping more than half a million health care workers join together in SEIU, negotiate for better working and patient care conditions, and actively shape health care policy at the state and federal levels.

She is currently working with local unions across the nation to coordinate and focus their efforts to unite 1 million additional registered nurses and other health care workers with SEIU over the next 10 years.

Mary Kay's faith and values as a practicing Catholic led her to pursue union organizing as a vocation. She began working with SEIU in 1979, representing health care workers in contract negotiations, organizing, legislative and political activity, health and safety, and public policy.

She rose to become a leader and chief health care strategist for SEIU. In 1996, she was elected to the International Executive Board and served as director of the union's Southern California Health Care Campaign, which over the past five years has helped workers form unions in more than 60 hospitals in the state. In June 2004, she was elected SEIU's Executive Vice President and is leading the work of the Health Systems Division.

Mary Kay's vision and leadership helped pave the way to the national Labor-Management Partnership at Kaiser Permanente, the groundbreaking agreements between SEIU and hospital chains such as Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), Tenet, and HCA, and efforts to create a different model of labor-management relations and conflict resolution within the industry. She is a labor adviser to and member of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic Health Care, and is leading a strategic planning process within SEIU to forge a new relationship with health care systems throughout the United States.

Mary Kay is also an active champion of health care reform, immigration reform, and gay and lesbian rights, and a founding member of SEIU's gay and lesbian Lavender Caucus. She and her partner, Paula Macchello, have been together for almost 20 years.

Read about more Voices of Equality.

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