Lula Bronson, former vice-president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 880, passed away peacefully in her home on the west side of Chicago Thursday, April 12. She was 82.
Mrs. Bronson was born in Turrell, Arkansas in 1936 and came north to Chicago to raise her children after the death of her husband, William Hayes Bronson.
Mrs. Bronson was a homecare worker in the 1980s, caring for seniors and people with disabilities in their homes, when confronted on the job with minimum and sub-minimum wages, racism, discrimination, and no benefits, she began organizing for living wages and benefits and respect for the vital work caregivers performed.
Mrs. Bronson was a pioneer, and one of the first at her agency to join Local 880, which in 1983 had only seven members. Under Bronson’s and her fellow officers’ leadership, it grew to over 70,000 homecare and childcare members across Illinois and became the largest union local in Chicago, in Illinois and the Midwest by the time she retired as vice-president in 2007.
Bronson served in many capacities within the union over her 20 plus years, starting as a rank and file member-organizer at her agency, then becoming a steward, a Board member, an officer, and eventually rising to vice-president.
Because of Bronson’s earlier organizing and leadership the over 28,000 personal assistants across the state of Illinois now earn $13 per hour, and have health insurance and other benefits.
Bronson was also a fighter for justice in her community – in the 1980s when the city of Chicago was trying to force her and her family out of public housing on the west side to make way for the new United Center, Bronson organized with her neighbors and won relocation assistance and funding.
Services for Lula Bronson were held on April 20 at New Mt. Pilgrim Church where she was an active member.