News > News > Riverkeeper > 1199SEIU Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda Joins Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors

1199SEIU Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda Joins Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors

For Release: June 30, 2016
Leah Rae, (914) 715-6821, Riverkeeper
Mindy Berman, (518) 229-0486, 1199SEIU

New York, NY —Riverkeeper, New York’s clean water advocate, announced that Maria
Castaneda, Secretary Treasurer of 1199SEIU has been appointed to its Board of Directors.
Castaneda has served as the powerful healthcare union’s Secretary Treasurer since 2007.
Among U.S. labor leaders, she is the highest-ranking woman of Asian descent. She is also a Vice
President of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Castaneda was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. in 1984. She became a
volunteer community organizer in New York City where she assisted Filipino nurses with
immigration issues and promoted Filipino culture. During that time, she also lobbied for the
Nursing Relief Act, which gave permanent resident status to thousands of Filipino nurses
employed in the U.S. She began working for 1199SEIU in 1985, starting as an organizer in the
union’s RN Division and later serving as a vice president and executive vice president.

In 2013, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which took the lives of over 6000 Filipinos, Castaneda
headed up relief efforts in 1199 and throughout SEIU. Catastrophes like Typhoon Haiyan,
uncontrolled wildfires in California, massive flooding in the south, extreme heat and weather
patterns and climate sensitive diseases like Chikungunya, Dengue, and now Zika have
illuminated the devastating consequences that climate change has had on our communities,
across the globe.

Castaneda participated in last year’s United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris.
“The addition of Maria Castaneda to the Riverkeeper Board reinforces our historic alliance with
the largest healthcare union in America,” said Riverkeeper Board Member and Nomination
Committee Chair Hamilton Fish. “Maria is an environmentalist at heart and will provide a well timed boost to our ongoing efforts to build a powerful and diverse coalition to defend clean
water and the regional environment.”

“I am very pleased to join the Riverkeeper board,” Castaneda said. “There is a growing
recognition within organized labor and among working people that climate change threatens our common humanity and that environmental degradation affects our communities disproportionately. It’s both a global issue and a local issue for every community. Right here in
New York State we are discovering ‘mini-Flints’ in the water supplies of our schools and local
communities. And in the summer months, when more people are enjoying the outdoors, we
see increased incidences of Lyme Disease and the West Nile virus.”

“I am proud to say that our 1199SEIU members are increasingly aware of the challenges we
face and stand ready to work in every way possible to protect our water, our air and our land.
Protecting the environment is, for us, a primary public health issue. As frontline healthcare
workers we are dedicated to saving lives, healing and, promoting wellness. Environmental
health is a key link to achieving that goal. We are happy to have found a dedicated partner in
Riverkeeper, with its successful decades-long track record of defending our environment.”

Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors approved Castaneda’s appointed at its meeting on Monday,
June 13.

Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson
River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City
and Hudson Valley residents. Since its beginnings as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association
50 years ago, Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway
and watershed protection and serves as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper
movement that includes over 290 Keeper programs across the country and around the globe.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union
in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New
York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care
and good jobs for all.

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