Our Purpose

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Why I’m a Member

"Joining the Union is important because we all have jobs to do, and it is nice to know that we have union staff who are employed to take care of what is important to me.  For the most part the reason we work is for the wages and benefits, so paying dues to support the union staff and leaders who are responsible for negotiating these things for me is a no brainer."

Jon Freeman, DMVA Environmental Technician
Hired August, 2022

Our Mission

We exist to make an impact. We do this by serving our communities, our state, and our people. We are diverse in voice and in profession. What unites us is a deep care for our work and the people we serve. While SEIU Local 517M does many things, it’s core purpose revolves around three functions:

  • We negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements for members
  • We Identify, recruit, and organize more members to increase the union base, thereby to enhance bargaining power
  • We sustain and engage an active political program that supports political candidates – regardless of party – who stand for working families and SEIU Local 517M programs and services.

We are SEIU Local 517M. These are our communities and this is our Union.

Who We Are

SEIU Local 517M is a full-service, member-driven, statewide labor union with over 7,000 public employees in all 83 counties in Michigan. SEIU Local 517M is governed by an Executive Board which is elected by, and from, the general membership.

SEIU Local 517M is part of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a 501(c)(5) labor union representing over two million workers in about 100 occupations in the United States and Canada.

Union History

SEIU Local 517M started in 1968 with the founding of the Michigan Society of State Highway Engineers, a limited recognition organization, whose members were comprised of both supervisory and non-supervisory highway engineers working for the Department of Transportation. In the fall of 1981, the non-supervisory state employees voted for the Michigan Professional Employees Society as the exclusive representative for all non-supervisory state employees assigned by the Department of Civil Service into the Scientific and Engineering Bargaining Unit, representing just over 1,500 scientists and engineers working for the State of Michigan.

Scientific and engineering bargaining unit employees ratified their first collective bargaining agreement in 1982. In 1987, MPES voted to affiliate with Service Employees International Union and became SEIU Local 517M.

In 1999, SEIU Local 582 voted to merge with Local 517M. Local 582 units included Saginaw County Community Mental Health; Head Start, Saginaw City Schools, Bay City Schools, Saginaw Twp Schools, Birch Run Schools and Buena Vista Schools.

Merger talks began with the United Technical Employees Association (UTEA), who represented the State of Michigan’s Technical Bargaining Unit Employees, and in June of 2000 UTEA made the decision to merge with SEIU Local 517M. This merger increased membership, putting 517M in a better position to confront bargaining challenges, budget cutbacks, and privatization issues affecting state employees. At their 2000 Convention, the SEIU International Executive Board made the bold decision to combine resources to build larger and stronger local unions to protect its members from the yearly “assaults” on wages and benefits. Local 517M became the Public Sector Local for SEIU in the State of Michigan.

This began the merger process of several more SEIU Locals in Michigan becoming part of Local 517M. Leaders realized the benefit for their members with more resources available, better training programs, a stronger political program, and the availability of full-time professional staff to assist in contract negotiations, grievances, and arbitrations. Over the next five years, the remaining Michigan SEIU public employee locals were merged into Local 517M including school and municipal bargaining units from Allegan, Battle Creek, Branch County, Detroit, Flint, Grand Haven, Hillsdale, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Plainwell, Pontiac, Royal Oak, South Haven, Taylor, Three Rivers, Watervliet and Wayland to name a few. During this time the State of Michigan Human Services Support Bargaining Unit became the third state unit to join Local 517M. Local 517M went from 1500 members to over 10,000 members strong in a few short years!

SEIU International Convention from 1984 in Dearborn, Michigan
Labor Day parade of Local 1 members in Chicago in the 1940s

Executive Board

Joey Combs
President
State of Michigan - HSS Unit

Bryan Grochowski
Secretary/Treasurer
State of Michigan - S&E Unit

Leticia Trevino
Divisional Vice President
City of Saginaw - Region 1

Yolanda Johnson
Divisional Vice President
City of Battle Creek - Region 2

Carmella Johnson
Divisional Vice President
Flint Community Schools - Region 3

Janice Cosey
Divisional Vice President
State of Michigan - HSS Unit

Michelle Kusnier
Divisional Vice President
State of Michigan - S&E Unit

Roderick Jackson
Divisional Vice President
State of Michigan - Technical Unit

John Eck
Board Member
State of Michigan - Technical Unit

Jason Jackson
Board Member
State of Michigan - Technical Unit

Jan Martin
Board Member
Flint Community Schools - Region 3

Kevin Mercado
Board Member
Niles Public Schools - Region 2

Greg Merricle
Board Member
State of Michigan - S&E Unit

Molly Mott
Board Member
State of Michigan - S&E Unit

Roberta Oldenburg
Board Member
Saginaw Public Schools - Region 1

Lori Steele
Board Member
Plainwell Community Schools - Region 2

Roland Whitelow
Board Member
State of Michigan - HSS Unit

Leni Steiner-Zehender
Board Member
State of Michigan - S&E Unit

Our Team

Jeremy Tripp
Executive Director

Andy Johnson
Labor Relations Specialist

David Corrie
Information Services Coordinator

Clint Bryant
Labor Relations Specialist

Ashley Konyha
Office Manager

Andrea Valerio
Administrative Support

Howard Gordon
Senior Labor Relations Specialist

Christine Stressman
Senior Labor Relations Specialist

Kevin Karpinski
Senior Labor Relations Specialist

Quintanilla Dowdell
Labor Relations Specialist

Contact Us

We’d like to hear from you! Are you a member or thinking of joining? How can we help you in your work as a public employee, or your role as a community partner? 

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