For immediate release
June 25, 2014
Securing organizing wins in airports, fast food, hotels, casinos and more, private sector hospitality union projects 18% growth in next 5 years
[Boston, MA] – In an economy deeply destabilized by income inequality, one North American union sees hope and growth in the years ahead. Delegates representing 270,000 UNITE HERE members are gathering June 25-27 in Boston for a convention, announcing recent organizing wins and an ambitious vision for growth designed to reduce inequality. UNITE HERE is the private sector International Union representing hotel, gaming, food service, and manufacturing workers in over 50 affiliated Locals in the U.S. and Canada.
With the most significant job growth limited to the low-wage service sector, the U.S. economy has struggled to fully rebound from the recession. UNITE HERE leaders will stress that the lagging economy underscores the urgency to organize more workers into the union to boost worker pay and spur economic growth. Under the convention theme “Changing 50,000 More Lives,” delegates are expected to discuss and vote to adopt a goal of organizing at least 50,000 more workers in the next five years—the equivalent of 18% growth overall. When UNITE HERE represents traditionally low-wage workers, they earn more money.
“We’ve changed where I work so that people no longer think fast food jobs are a path to no where,” says Tatiana Lam, who works at Einstein Bros. Bagels at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, California. “Since we won our first contract this year, I now make over $16 an hour and can afford healthcare for my young daughter and my husband.”
Tatiana is just one of thousands of workers that unionized with UNITE HERE last year—5,000 in the food service industry alone. The union, which is noted for its aggressive organizing program, has added 47,000 new members to the Union since its last convention, despite the impact of the recession. It was credited in the AFL-CIO’s 2013 membership report with adding more new members than any other union in the federation.
Delegates also will elect new officers. Current President D Taylor will stand for a full five year term after taking over the leadership of the union in late 2013. Taylor moved to Las Vegas in the mid 1980s with former UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm and spearheaded the union’s explosive growth from 17,000 members at that time to over 50,000 members today. The Las Vegas union story is a leading American success story showing how it is possible to change the lives of low-wage service workers from dead-end jobs to occupations with high wages, company paid health insurance, defined benefit pension plans, and a guaranteed work week.
“At a time when so much attention is rightfully being paid to the declining living standards of American workers, the UNITE HERE family knows that the surest way to change lives for the better is to organize workers into unions,” said President Taylor. “At our convention we plan to re-dedicate ourselves to this noble task. We are determined to bring more workers the benefits of collective bargaining that include wage gains and to protect and advance health care benefits. Our mission is to change their lives for the better. It can be done and we are doing it.”
In addition to the convention focus on changing 50,000 more lives, delegates will hear from a number of outside speakers including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is also slated to speak.