Denis Johnston is a Vice President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), New York’s largest private-sector union and the country’s largest property services union. Johnston is the director of 32BJ’s New York Metro Commercial and Security Divisions.
Denis took over the fledgling New York City Security Division in 2008, which now has more than 13,000 officers today, and stepped into his role overseeing the 25,000 strong commercial division in 2017.
From his first volunteer work with El Salvadoran refugees after graduating from Rutgers University, Johnston has worked to improve the lives of immigrants for the past 30 years. He continues this work as a founder and president of the board of directors for Peace Works, a New Jersey nonprofit that works to aid the peoples of the Americas and support progressive change in the U.S.
Although his maternal grandmother—Mary Bajowski, a Polish immigrant—was a 32BJ cleaner in lower Manhattan in the 1950’s, 60’s and ‘70s, it was SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign that first brought Johnston to the union. He joined 32BJ in 2001 when the union embarked on an industry-wide effort to improve the lives of 10,000 New Jersey janitors.
That campaign led to an assignment building the 32BJ Commercial Division in Westchester County, NY, and later in Fairfield County, CT, before becoming a district supervisor of the Commercial Division in New York City. In March 2008, Johnston took over the fledgling New York City Security Division just as 32BJ was entering one of its largest periods of growth, adding 7,000 new members over five years.
The New York Metro Security Division has grown from 1,000 member security officers at that campaign’s start to more than 13,000 today and more than 30,000 union-wide. The division has seen steady growth since he took this post and secured a strong 4-year contract in 2016.
“It’s always been a blessing and an honor to do this work,” Johnston says. “I can’t think of anything else I would rather do.”
Born in Queens, New York and raised in New Jersey, Johnston is an avid backpacker, cyclist, outdoorsman, and a cook. He and his wife, Jazmina, are the parents of three daughters and a son.