Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger has pulled out of the race to head the 2.2 million-member union, whose membership includes hospital, nursing home and home-care workers.
The move opens the door for SEIU International Executive Vice President Mary Kay Henry, who is also healthcare division head, to continue her leadership bid uncontested, according to the Associated Press. Healthcare workers make up more than half of the SEIU's membership. The union also represents property-service employees and government workers.
The union's executive board is set to elect a new president on May 8. Should Henry win, she will replace retiring SEIU President Andy Stern and become the first woman to lead the union.
Stern has been at the SEIU's helm for 14 years, during which time he has grown its membership by 1.2 million. But recently critics have faulted him for a rift between the healthcare worker membership in Northern California and the subsequent creation of a rival union called the National Union of Healthcare Workers. Burger had been Stern's choice for a replacement, but four influential SEIU vice presidents stepped forward last week in support of Henry.
Henry has represented SEIU healthcare workers for nearly 30 years, and in 2009 was selected as one of Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare.