Honoring Kristina ``Kristy’’ Marie Sermersheimby Representative Zoe Lofgren
Posted on 2013-02-06
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to acknowledge and honor Kristina
``Kristy'' Marie Sermersheim. I first met Kristy more than 30 years
ago. I was a brash candidate for office not backed by the establishment
and not expected to win. Kristy was a union activist who didn't know
the meaning of the word ``no''. Together we challenged the conventional
wisdom. Voters decided that an emphasis on children and families was
what they cared about. I was elected to the Board of Supervisors of
Santa Clara County. That same year, in 1981, she became a full-time
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) staff member.
The financial roof fell in on the county shortly thereafter, the impact of Proposition 13. Neither of us wanted a reduction in services to people in need. But we faced the imperative of reductions.
We worked together to cut the budget, to make sure that as we dealt with the budget reality we protected the most vulnerable and never scapegoated our employees. Kristy Sermersheim proved her bona fides in those tough times. She was smart, pragmatic but idealistic. She had values. She stood up for her members and she stood up for those in need. She was a star.
She continued to represent workers for another 32 years. As a passionate advocate for workers' rights, she held a range of positions on various local, state, national, and international organizations, including SEIU Local 715, SEIU International Union, South Bay American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Labor Council, California Labor Federation, SEIU Public Services Division, and SEIU California State Council. Kristy assumed the leadership role of SEIU local 715, the largest union representing employees of Santa Clara County.
Born in New Albany, Indiana, during elementary school, her family lived in Michigan, San Diego, and Long Beach, California. In 1961, her family moved to San Jose. In 1967, she graduated from Leigh High School. Kristy's good grades earned accolades as a National Merit Scholar Finalist and she was voted ``Most Likely to Succeed'' by her classmates. After she graduated, she took classes at San Jose State University and began working as a Santa Clara County Social Services Eligibility Worker in the Welfare Department.
Kristy has devoted her life to social justice and workers' rights. She served 11 years as a member leader for the Santa Clara County Employees Association.
As head of the former SEIU Local 715 in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, Kristy expanded the union from 5,000 members working for four employers to more than 30,000 members with over 20 different contracts. She led the consolidation of five unions, including Local 715, to form the new SEIU Local 521. As Chief Elected Office of SEIU 521, she fought on behalf of 57,000 workers throughout North and Central California. Under her leadership, the County of Santa Clara and SEIU negotiated an $80 million settlement that established pay equity by removing discrimination in wage-setting for women and people of color.
We worked together for rights for women. Kristy helped make sure that the union represented a female worker in the county roads department in an affirmative action case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. County government was her partner in the case. I remember so well listening to the oral arguments on that case as a young County Supervisor. We were proud that local government and the union were partners in the quest for equal rights for women.
The case confirmed that government agencies must consider previous discrimination history as well as qualifications when making hiring decisions. In recognition of over 40 years of contributions to the social and political advancement of women, Kristy was awarded the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council's 2012 COPE Award for Service Above Self.
Throughout her career, Kristy worked together with public workers to obtain improvements in working conditions, wages, and benefits. She forged alliances with other unions and community groups to improve public services to the residents union members serve. Kristy is now retired and lives in Morgan Hill with her two sisters, Andrea and Teresa. The three sisters have collectively raised their brother's children after he passed away. They live with their niece Flori, a little dog, and three cats. In her retirement, Kristy wants to help the developmentally disabled community and volunteer where she can make a difference. I join in honoring her decades of contribution and service to the betterment of our society. The community is very fortunate to have benefited from her advocacy, dedication, and leadership. She has left her mark in the community and I know she will continue to play a positive role.