Seth grew up in the Brickyard section of Germantown, the son of working-class Black and Jewish parents. Throughout his life, wherever he finds himself, Seth has organized with folks to fight for their rights. He joined his first picket line in North Philadelphia at the age of ten when his stepfather, an 1199 maintenance worker at Guiffree Medical Center went on strike to improve conditions in the hospital. He fondly recalls the chanting and singing on the picket line and credits that early experience with planting the seed for his lifelong love for labor and anti-racist, working-class organization.
While an undergraduate student at Temple University, Seth helped forge a broad multi-racial coalition that won leadership of Temple Student Government. While serving as vice president of the student body, Seth fought to increase recruitment and retention efforts for Black students and helped organize campus protests against union busting and Temple-led community displacement efforts in North Philadelphia.
Throughout college, Seth supported himself as a housepainter to pay tuition, rent and bills – a job he maintained for a decade. Along with his time as a line cook in hotel restaurants, these experiences taught him the long hours and grueling conditions Philadelphians face on the job. At the Four Seasons Hotel, a swinging door separated two worlds: the glitz of fancy living, and the world of overworked kitchen staff making poverty wages with no healthcare.
These experiences inspired Seth to apply for work as a labor organizer, first with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union. His first assignment was working with Ethiopian and Eritrean parking garage attendants in Washington, DC, who were fighting for a union and a living wage. Through mass action and sometimes facing arrest, these workers fought to improve their conditions. When they were arrested and went to jail, Seth went to jail with them. Eventually they won their union and a living wage – and their courage inspired Seth to make organizing his life’s work.
Seth worked as a cook until landing a job with the American Federation of Teachers helping Philadelphia charter school teachers win a voice at work. Their aim; to combat high teacher turnover and to improve the quality of education in their schools. In 2011, Seth accepted a promotion to become the political director for the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey based in Perth Amboy. For seven years, Seth commuted daily between Philadelphia and North Jersey where he helped organize members to fight then-Governor Chris Christie’s education cuts and attacks on their pension system. Seth also led AFTNJ’s efforts to elect poet and activist Ras Baraka as Mayor of Newark – on a platform to stop foreclosures, return Newark’s schools to local control and reverse the widespread charterization of the school district.
In 2015, New Jersey Citizen Action, a broad coalition of citizen groups, made Seth a recipient of their Annual Citizen’s Award for his leadership in efforts to pass the $15 statewide minimum wage. During this time, Seth also ran multiple counties for the New Jersey AFL-CIO’s political program over numerous election cycles, expanding labor’s capacity and leading to a decisive win for Phil Murphy in 2017. Since Philadelphia’s municipal elections occur off year, AFTNJ lent Seth to the Philadelphia Labor Council, AFL-CIO to help run their election-year efforts. Staging out of the Working America office in Germantown, Seth pushed the Labor Council to expand its efforts into the Northwest and recruited unions to help mobilize voters in Nicetown, Germantown and Mt. Airy during the 2015 and 2016 cycles. On election day in 2016, more than 200 union members showed up to phonebank, knock doors and get out the vote all over the Northwest.
Since 2018, Seth has organized with our state’s largest healthcare union, SEIU Healthcare PA. He organizes healthcare workers in both the public and private sectors to stand together to improve patient care and strengthen working conditions. Shortly after joining SEIU, Seth led support staff at Chestnut Hill Hospital to a hard fought contract victory that included reversing years of discriminatory pay and promotion practices. In 2019, Seth helped nurses from all across the Commonwealth bargain a historic contract with the state – aiming to overcome chronic staffing shortages at the state’s public health facilities.
In the midst of the nationwide uprising following the murder of George Floyd, Seth helped found the Philadelphia Labor for Black Lives Coalition to bring Labor, especially Black Labor, more prominently into the fight against structural racism. The coalition now includes sixteen unions and continues to fight broadly for the needs of Black workers and our communities, including for an end to police violence against Black people. Recently, the coalition has also helped to support the Black families facing eviction at the University City Townhomes, a subsidized affordable housing community slated for sale to developers. He also has a deep commitment to nurture youth activism and serves on the Board of Directors for the Philadelphia Student Union.
Seth has been married to Aisha for 23 years, a veteran teacher who has worked in public and independent schools, most recently as the admissions director and middle school social studies teacher at Mt. Airy’s cooperative Project Learn School. They have two amazing children, Nadja, 19; and Gyasi, 15 both passionate about the creative arts, both raised proudly in Germantown.
When he’s not working or parenting, Seth loves to cook and laugh with friends; study our radical Black history and US Labor history for lessons we can apply today; bop to his granddad’s old jazz records; and (loudly) cheer on Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and his beloved Sixers.