David Rolf is a labor leader, organizer, writer, and speaker working to build the next American labor movement. He is the founder and President Emeritus of SEIU 775 and a former Vice President of SEIU International. He led campaigns that helped organize hundreds of thousands of minimum-wage home care workers, and helped lead the nation’s first two successful campaigns for $15 minimum wages in SeaTac and Seattle.

David Rolf

David serves as chairman of Carina, the SEIU 775 Secure Retirement Trust, the Fair Work Center, and Working Washington.  He is on the advisory boards of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative and the MIT Work of the Future project, and is part of the Clean Slate Project at Harvard Law School, which aims to build a policy agenda to reconstruct labor law. He advises a number of organizations on matters relating to labor and economic justice. David is currently working with entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer on a new project to rebuild the middle class in the United States.

David has been called “the most successful union organizer of the last 15 years” by the American Prospect, which said that “no American unionist has organized as many workers, or won them raises as substantial, as Rolf.”

He helped lead the historic fights to win a $15/hour living wage in SeaTac, WA and Seattle, WA, the first successful campaigns of their kind in the United States. Since the pioneering wins in SeaTac in 2013 and Seattle in 2014, more than 22 million people across the country have won raises as a result of the Fight for $15.

From 2002 to 2018, David served as the Founding President of SEIU 775, a local affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that represents more than 45,000 long-term care workers in the Pacific Northwest. He also served as International Vice President of SEIU.


David is the founder of the SEIU 775 Benefits Group, which provides Washington state home care workers with training, comprehensive health benefits, and the nation’s first pension fund for home care workers.

He helped found the Fair Work Center, Working Washington, and the Workers Lab. The Fair Work Center is a Seattle-based hub that assists in enforcing labor law and helps workers understand and exercise their legal rights. Working Washington fights for economic justice and workers’ rights in the state of Washington. The Workers Lab invests in projects to build economic power for working people.

David writes and speaks frequently about the need for risk taking and innovation in the American labor movement, and is the author of “The Fight for Fifteen: The Right Wage for a Working America” (New Press, 2016) and the e-book “A Roadmap to Building Worker Power” (The Century Foundation, 2018). He has been published in Democracy Journal, The American Prospect, the Aspen Journal of Ideas, the Boston Review, and The Nation, among other publications.

David was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, and is a graduate of Bard College. He lives with his wife, Kylie Rolf, in Seattle.


Articles about David and his work

13 people who made an impact on the Seattle area in the past decade
The Seattle Times –Jan 1, 2020

David Rolf, powerful labor leader, handing off reins at Seattle-based SEIU 775
The Seattle Times –Sept. 6, 2018

Leading the Way in the Fight for Human Rights
The New York Times –May 24, 2018

The emerging plan to save the American labor movement
Vox –April 9, 2018

Podcast: Seattle labor leader David Rolf on the demise of unions, and how they can evolve
The Seattle Times –Feb. 16, 2018

Uber CEO calls for new benefits system for gig economy workers
The Hill –Jan. 24, 2018

The Most Successful Union Organizer in America Thinks Traditional Organizing Is a Lost Cause
Capital & Main –Jan. 11, 2018

Companies face big savings from tax rate cut and questions about what that will mean for investment, shareholders and workers
Omaha World-Herald –Dec. 24, 2017

This State Wants to Offer Universal Benefits to Gig Workers
Fortune –Oct. 13, 2017

Policies to Protect Workers in the Patchwork Economy: Portable Benefits
The Century Foundation –Aug. 22, 2017

The Conservative Case for Unions
The Atlantic –July/August 2017

Men Don’t Want to Be Nurses. Their Wives Agree.
New York Times –June 24, 2017

New Federal Portable Benefits Legislation Follows State and Local Bills
The Aspen Institute –May 25, 2017

Is the gig economy working?
The New Yorker –May 15, 2017

Seattle implemented a $15 minimum wage two years ago. Here’s what Minneapolis could learn from that fight
MinnPost –April 25, 2017

Europe could have the secret to saving America’s unions
Vox –April 17, 2017

At Labor’s Crossroads
The Nation –March 8, 2017

With Growth of the Gig Economy, States Rethink How Workers Get Benefits
The Pew Charitable Trusts –Feb. 22, 2017

What if Trump’s government paid you to be a couch potato?
KUOW –Jan. 26, 2017

As traditional unions decline, Fight for $15 leader envisions stronger modern labor movement on horizon
New York Daily News –Jan. 11, 2017

Donald Trump’s pick as secretary of labor is a fast-food CEO. And that’s got labor leaders concerned.
KUOW –Dec. 9, 2016

The Minimum Wage Debate: Should WA voters pass a $13.50 rate?
KCPQ –Oct. 9, 2016

Seattle blows off Wells Fargo on $100 million City Light bond financing
Seattle PI –Oct. 7, 2016

“Kanske har jag råd att köpa en bil nu” (“Maybe I can afford to buy a car now”)
Aftonbladet (Sweden) –Oct. 3, 2016

Entrepreneur, labor leader want city to stop doing business with Wells Fargo
Seattle PI –Sept. 30, 2016

Raise the Minimum: New Strategies for Raising Wages and Labor Standards
The Aspen Institute –Sept. 27, 2016

Celebrating the Fight for $15: How raising the minimum wage helps build an economy that works for all
Ford Foundation –Sept. 1, 2016

Giving Labor Its Due
Seattle Weekly –Aug. 31, 2016

With Nudge from SeaTac, Delegates Back Platform with $15 Minimum Wage
The Seattle Times —July 27, 2016

A Midyear Burst of Minimum-Wage Increases Starts on July 1
The Wall Street Journal —July 1, 2016

Exclusive Survey: The Future of Work in America
TIME –June 30, 2016

Review: David Rolf’s “The Fight for $15”
PHI –June 27, 2016

An Increase in the Minimum Wage Strengthens the Economy for All
Truthout –June 26, 2016

Seattle’s Great Minimum Wage Experiment
BBC –June 22, 2016

Audio: McDonald’s and the Minimum Wage
BBC –May 26, 2016

Elizabeth Warren’s Next Crusade: Can Liberals Fix the Safety Net for 21st-Century Workers?
New Republic –May 19, 2016

How We Won the Fight for $15 in Seattle and What’s Next
Civic Skunk Works –May 11, 2016

SEIU Leader Describes How SeaTac Helped Ignite the Minimum Wage Movement
KPLU –May 9, 2016

Executive Q&A: Toward a More Perfect Union
Seattle Business –May 2016

What Raising the Minimum Wage Means for the Future of American Labor
The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC –April 27, 2016

The #Fightfor15, in Seattle and Beyond
DCist –April 26, 2016

Gaming the System for Economic Justice — Our $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Fight
Seattle PI –April 25, 2016

David on Carlson
Talk Radio 570 KVI –April 15, 2016

Fight for $15: Meet the Enfant Terrible Who Turned Minimum Wage into a National Battle
The Guardian –April 9, 2016

David on the Nicole Sandler Show – Fighting for $15
Radio or Not –April 4, 2016

Interview about “The Fight for Fifteen”
NW Labor Press –April 1, 2016

Growth in the ‘Gig Economy’ Fuels Work Force Anxieties
NYT–July 12, 2015

We need bigger economic ideas. Can Hillary Clinton deliver them?
Washington Post–June 22, 2015

Wins for workers
High Country News–May 11, 2015

Local books on the way: Corrupt cops, minimum wage, cleaning up Lake Washington
Seattle Post-Intelligencer–April 29, 2015

LA and the $15 minimum wage: It all started accidentally at a Washington airport
KPCC–Jan 15, 2015

What Do We Want? $15! When Do We Want It? In a Little While!
The Seattle Met Magazine–August 2014

Organized Labor Is Taking A Page From Startup Culture’s Book
BuzzFeed–August 2014

The Politico 50
Politico–September 2014

The Seeds of a New Labor Movement
The American Prospect–Fall 2014

How A Millionaire, A Socialist, And Some Taco Bell Workers Brought A Living Wage To Seattle
Think Progress–June 2014

Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn?
The American Prospect–May 2014

Unions are back with city-by-city wage campaign
The Seattle Times–May 2014

David Rolf: Man in the Middle
Seattle Met–February 2014

David Rolf: The man who would make unions matter again
Seattle Times Magazine–March 2013

One Question for SEIU President David Rolf
Seattle Met–December 2013

Why Seattle Voters Will Decide to Pass a $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage
The Stranger–Nov. 30, 2013

Transforming the Union
Washington CEO Magazine–April 30, 2007

A Labor of Shove
Seattle Weekly–Oct. 9, 2006

Key Arena fix draws big names – and a nay plea
The Spokesman Review–Feb. 26, 2006

State’s unions confront the need for change
Seattle Post-Intelligencer–July 25, 2005

Home-care union blended force, finesse to win gains
The Seattle Times–March 22, 2004

Caretakers Take Charge
LA Weekly–Feb. 24, 1999

Union Gains Echo Old Triumphs, Hopes Unionism is on the Upswing in America
Los Angeles Times–Sept. 4, 1999