In a move that could be the first shot in a battle for leadership of the AFL-CIO, the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees have agreed to merge. The new union will be known as Unite HERE. As part of the deal, union officials say that UNITE chief Bruce Raynor will support HERE boss John Wilhelm for president of the AFL-CIO in 2005. First elected in 1995, current AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney has said he will seek another 4-yr. term.
With UNITE’s 180,000 members and HERE’s 250,000, the new Unite HERE will boast nearly 450,000 members. Raynor will become president of the new union. But acc. to Wilhelm, the 2 will have joint authority on budget, personnel and strategy. Acc. to Wilhelm, he and Raynor “will be co-presidents.” The two have reportedly urged the AFL-CIO to devote more resources to organizing to try and reverse Big Labor’s slice of the American workforce, from 35 pct. in the 1950s to 8.2% in 2003.
To read more about corruption problems in HERE, go to http://www.nlpc.org/artindx.asp#here. For more information about corruption in UNITE, go to http://www.nlpc.org/artindx.asp#unite. [New York Times, 2/26/04]