For immediate release
July 25, 2005
On Sunday, July 24th, UNITE HERE’s delegates to the AFL-CIO voted unanimously to boycott the AFL-CIO convention in Chicago. Following nine months of negotiations, it became clear to our delegates and leaders that our proposals for reform are not leading to a real commitment from the AFL-CIO to organize new members. Given our differences, the delegates voted to move on.
“The AFL-CIO undermined every effort our coalition made to encourage debate and discussion among the delegates at the convention,” explains General President Bruce Raynor. “We were denied democracy every step of the way, so we have decided to move on from reform to action.”
While our coalition represents over a third of the dues paying members to the AFL-CIO, we had the right to bring only nine percent of the delegates who could vote on these issues to Chicago.
UNITE HERE has not disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO at this time. Presidents Raynor and Wilhelm, along with Vice President Clayola Brown, have chosen not to run for office on the Executive Council on the Sweeney slate. UNITE HERE locals and joint boards currently paying dues to Central Labor Councils and State Federations will continue to do so. We will also continue to collaborate with any allied groups and institutions that seek to work with us.
“We are determined to keep supporting the terrific local groups and leaders who have done so much good for America’s working families,” explains President John Wilhelm. “Later this week, delegates to the AFL-CIO convention will vote on a proposal to exclude non-affiliated unions from participating in these local groups. We hope the delegates vote it down, because they realize what a devastating blow that would be to the local and state coalitions that are such an important part of our movement.”
UNITE HERE is a leader in the Change to Win coalition, joined by the UFCW, Teamsters, Carpenters, SEIU, Laborers, and the United Farm Workers. This growing coalition is focused on rebuilding the labor movement through a commitment to growth and organizing. “The core goals of the labor movement–higher wages, health care for all, safe jobs, and secure pensions–will not be realized if we continue to settle for the status quo,” says Raynor.
Our delegation voted to leave Chicago because it has become clear that the AFL-CIO is not responding adequately to the crisis facing American workers. Some of our key differences include:
- We believe the path to greater power for workers comes from organizing, while the AFL-CIO believes that supporting political efforts to elect Democrats is the solution. Political action is important, but as unions shrink, it is an insult to our members’ intelligence and a waste of valuable resources to continue to settle for second place in countless elections.
UNITE HERE and Change to Win have fought for greater diversity in the Executive Council, while the AFL-CIO will propose a resolution that will weaken the gains in representation made in the past 10 years.
We are developing better rules regarding jurisdictional rights in organizing, and creating structures that will encourage joint organizing and bargaining, so that workers in the same industries and sectors will have more power.
“The Change to Win Coalition has asked for bold leadership that will challenge the status quo. What we’ve gotten back is familiar rhetoric with no teeth and a commitment to maintain a 1955 structure that continues to be woefully inadequate for the global economy of 2005,” says Wilhelm.
UNITE HERE will now focus on building our union within the Change to Win coalition, regardless of our relationship to the AFL-CIO. We will continue to devote over 50 percent of our resources to organizing, and will continue to run joint campaigns with SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW, and others. We will maintain our aggressive political action initiatives as part of our growth program. Most importantly, our members will continue to win, and we will fight to see a vibrant labor movement once again.
For more information, please contact Amanda Cooper at 212-332-9376 or at [email protected].
Visit www.ChangeToWin.org for more information.