President, SEIU Local 1
Tom Balanoff is President of both SEIU Local 1 and the SEIU Illinois State Council. SEIU Local 1 represents 50,000 property service workers in Chicago and 10 other cities across the Midwest. Balanoff was elected President of Local 1 in 2000, after serving both SEIU and industrial labor organizations in various capacities over the decades.
Balanoff graduated with a Master’s Degree in Labor and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois in 1974. Soon after, he worked in the Fire Fighters Union, the Allied Industrial Workers’ Union, and the Cement Workers Union before joining SEIU as the international research director in 1988. Within a year, he was promoted to Building Service Division director, where he joined SEIU’s senior staff and played a crucial role in the ground-breaking Justice for Janitors campaigns.
Balanoff moved to Chicago in 1993 to become the trustee of Local 73, and in 1994 he was elected President. He was elected to the SEIU international executive board in 1995, and became an international Vice President in 1996. In 1999, he led the reorganization of the largest building service local in the country, the 75,000-member Local 32 BJ in New York City. In 2000, Balanoff returned to Chicago, where he was elected President of Local 1.
In addition to his role as Local 1 President, he is a leader of SEIU’s Property Service Division, where he oversees work across the security sector. The Property Services Division encompasses both the janitorial and security industries. In addition to this work, he leads in organizing and representing those in the janitorial industry.
As President of the Property Service Section of Union Network International—which includes more than 130 building service unions in 77 countries with 2 million members — Balanoff led global negotiations with the world’s largest security companies such as Securitas, Allied Barton, and G4S that led to ground breaking national recognition agreements for security workers. The agreements allow workers around the world to form unions through the easiest legally permissible process, give unions greater access to talk to workers, and creates a fund to raise standards for property service workers globally.
In 2006, under Balanoff’s leadership Local 1 has improved the lives of more than 10,000 janitors in just two years. In the largest private sector union organizing success in the South in decades, 6,000 Houston janitors who were paid as little as $20 a day won union contracts with full-time hours, living wages and health care. Another 5,000 janitors in Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis won similar first union contracts in the months that followed the Houston victory.
As President of the SEIU’s Illinois Council, Balanoff has presided over unprecedented growth—a doubling of SEIU’s Illinois’ membership in five years. With the other SEIU local unions in Illinois, Balanoff restructured the union into industry-based locals that have been able to capitalize on their strength to win rights for more than 100,000 low-wage workers in health care and child care.
Balanoff has also focused on improving our country for all working people. As an early supporter of Barack Obama, Balanoff’s union endorsed him for the State Senate and U.S. Senate when few believed Obama could win. Balanoff was the leading voice for SEIU’s primary endorsement of Obama for President.
Balanoff is currently heavily engaged in the Fight for $15 movement, and is leading the fight to organize thousands of airport workers in Chicago.