David Rolf

David Rolf, SEIU 775 Founder and President Emeritus

David Rolf is a labor leader, organizer, author, and strategist working to build the next American labor movement.   He has been called “the most successful union organizer in America” by Fast Company, and American Prospect wrote that “no American unionist has organized as many workers, or won them raises as substantial, as Rolf.”

David has led campaigns that helped organize hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers, including the landmark 1999 effort to win a union for 75,000 Los Angeles home care aides, the largest successful organizing drive since 1941. He led the nation’s first successful campaigns for $15 minimum wages in SeaTac (2013) and Seattle (2014).

From 2002 to 2018, David served as Founding President of SEIU 775, which organized more than 45,000 long-term care workers in Washington and Montana. Under his leadership, previously unrepresented home care aides built the largest local union in Washington State; saw their wages more than double; gained health, dental, vision, and workers compensation insurance; and won a retirement plan, paid time off and professional training and certification. He served as International Vice President of SEIU and was founding chair of its Home Care Industry Council.

David is chairman of the SEIU 775 Secure Retirement Trust, and was founder and chairman of the SEIU 775 Health Benefits Trust (a health insurance plan) and the SEIU 775 Training Partnership (a school enrolling 40,000 students annually in home care career education). He is a co-founder and board member of the SEIU 775 Benefits Group.


David is founder and chairman of the Fair Work Center, a worker center and employment law clinic, and Working Washington, a campaign organization for economic justice and workers’ rights.   He was the founder and chairman of The Workers Lab, which invests in projects to build new models for worker power. From 2019 to 2021, he led the Raise Wages Now Project.

David frequently serves on advisory boards and commissions, recently including the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work and Benefits21 Initiatives; the MIT President’s Work of the Future Task Force; the Clean Slate for Labor Law Project at Harvard Law School; the Urban Institute’s Workrise Network; the Workers Defense Project Leadership Council, and the JUST Capital Programs Advisory Committee.

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

He was born and raised in Cincinnati, 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