For immediate release
September 14, 2005
Activist, progressive union takes next step in its groundbreaking history
St. Paul, MN-The General Executive Board of UNITE HERE voted September 13th to disaffiliate from the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). This vote follows several months of debate and discussion among the members, staff, and elected leadership of UNITE HERE.
“Workers in America are in a crisis- a crisis of low wages, plant closings, lost pensions, lost health care, and a loss of rights on the job,” said Bruce Raynor, General President of UNITE HERE. “Hurricane Katrina is the rawest example of how low wage workers are simply being left behind in our society. Workers want to fight back, and they deserve institutions and leadership willing to get serious about organizing and increasing worker power to rebuild the middleclass and restore dignity on the job. Our union has taken steps to devote over 50% of our resources on organizing, and through our changes we are seeing victories for our members across the US and Canada. Our board’s vote today was a step toward a dedicated vision to organize within the Change to Win coalition.”
“Our union has worked for years to reform the AFL-CIO and rebuild the labor movement,” said John W. Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industries of UNITE HERE. “Our efforts to make real changes at the AFL-CIO have ended, but our board vote today was done with no ill will towards any member union of the AFL-CIO. UNITE HERE remains committed to working with any union and community organization at local, state, national, and international levels. The Change to Win Coalition includes most of the unions that have led the labor movement’s fight for immigrant workers, and we will continue that fight.”
UNITE HERE is a part of the Change to Win coalition, and is joined by the SEIU, Carpenters, Laborers, Farm Workers, UFCW, and the Teamsters. The Change to Win coalition represents 6 million workers committed to organizing new members and pursuing a pro-worker, bi-partisan political agenda at the local, state, and national level.
UNITE HERE represents 450,000 workers in the hotel, gaming, laundry, apparel and textile manufacturing, retail, and food service sectors. UNITE HERE was created on July 12, 2004 as a merger between UNITE and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE). Since the merger, the union has grown through winning unprecedented organizing victories in all its key sectors, exceeding all previous organizing results by either union prior to the merger. UNITE HERE has won high-profile victories in contract fights in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., as well as lockout battles in San Francisco and a strike in Atlantic City, NJ.