Dennis Rivera leads SEIU Healthcare’s efforts to unite healthcare workers everywhere in a movement to provide the highest quality health care to every patient, fix our nation’s broken healthcare system, and ensure that millions of caregivers throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico can improve the quality of their work, their lives, and their communities. He currently directs SEIU’s national campaign to win passage of national healthcare reform for every man, woman, and child in America. Rivera moved to New York from his native Puerto Rico in 1977 and worked as a union organizer in several of the city’s healthcare facilities, including Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. After years of helping thousands of hospital workers to join the union, Rivera was elected President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in 1989 and served in that role until 2007. Rivera oversaw dramatic growth in union membership as more than 275,000 healthcare workers came together to gain a strong voice at work and improve the quality of patient care. During this period, healthcare workers transformed the state of labor-management relations in New York, resulting in a stronger, more comprehensive healthcare system and establishing essential benefits for low-wage workers, including healthcare coverage, childcare services, retirement plans, and worker-centered education and training programs. Rivera also served as co-chair of the National Benefit Fund, the nation’s largest self-insured union healthcare plan covering more 500,000 workers, their families and retirees. With Rivera’s leadership, the union emerged on the national stage as a united, passionate voice for working families on a host of issues, including affordable, quality healthcare for all, economic justice, immigration rights, and ending the Iraq war.
Born in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, in 1950, Rivera attended the Colegio Universitario de Cayey, and then left school to become a union organizer of Puerto Rican hospital workers. An outspoken activist on behalf of the economic, social, and environmental health of Puerto Rico and its people, he was imprisoned for 30 days in 2001 for protesting the U.S. Navy’s use of the inhabited island of Vieques as a live ammunitions testing site. In the face of mounting protests, the Navy ultimately halted bombing of the island in 2002.
Rivera currently serves as Secretary of the Partnership for Quality Care (PQC), a coalition of healthcare providers and healthcare workers that cares for more than 60 million patients each year. He also holds a variety of posts in the national labor movement, is a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Commission to Build a Healthier America, and serves on the board of Riverkeeper, and the Hispanic Education and Legal Fund.