The executive boards of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees
International Union (HERE), and UNITE, the clothing,textiles and laundry
union, have unanimously agreed in principle to merge the two unions. The
new union will represent 440,000 active members and more than 400,000
retirees throughout North America. The tentative agreement is expected to
be ratified with a vote by rank-and-file members at a special joint
convention in Chicago in July.
The new union will be called UNITE HERE. Bruce Raynor of UNITE will serve
as General President, and HERE’s John Wilhelm will be
President/Hospitality Industries. The two presidents will share executive,
budgetary and personnel authority.
“This merger substantially increases our ability to fight for the rights
of our members and the tens of thousands of new members that we will
represent in the future and to make sure that America ‘s working families
share in the success of the world ‘s richest nation. We are stronger
together at the bargaining table, at shop floors, in city halls, state
capitals and in Washington, DC,” says President Raynor.
“Our members are the same people: service workers, immigrants, African-
Americans, living in the same neighborhoods all across North America.
Together with UNITE, we can grow faster. Together, more service workers
will achieve the American dream. And together, we will have the strength
we need to bargain with giant global corporations,” explains President
UNITE and HERE have collaborated most recently in the Immigrant Workers
Freedom Ride, the successful struggle for a fair contract for Yale
workers, and in the current effort to unionize H&M retail and distribution
“We bring the same attitude to the table. For the employers who chose the
high road by negotiating good contracts with fair pay and good benefits,
we maintain a totally cooperative relationship,” explains Raynor.
“However, when it comes to struggles with companies that refuse to do the
right thing by their workers, we are not afraid to dig in our heels. We
are known for outsmarting and outlasting even the toughest companies.”
Currently, UNITE enjoys strong relationships with TJX (TJ Maxx and
Marshalls), Hartmarx, Liz Claiborne and Xerox. HERE has led successful
labor- management cooperation ventures in the gaming industry and with
hotels, particularly in San Francisco, and on legislative and political
Presidents Raynor and Wilhelm are known as dynamic and innovative labor
leaders. Along with the presidents of the carpenters, laborers and service
employee ‘s unions, they have formed the New Unity Partnership, which has
recommended many changes to the structure of unions, including the need to
join together in larger, more powerful organizations.
“We both have aggressive organizing campaigns underway and the merger will
allow us to intensify and expand these efforts,” said President Raynor.
“We need unions that are dynamic and powerful enough to take on the big
corporations that are dominating the lives of Americas families.”
UNITE historically represents workers in the apparel and textile
industries, and more recently has organized industrial laundries,
distribution centers and workers in light manufacturing. HERE members are
in the hospitality industries, working in hotels, airports, casinos, food
service, and restaurants. Though there are places where the industries
overlap, particularly in hospitality and laundry, the merger is primarily
a reflection of the two unions ‘shared values and priorities: social
justice, economic opportunity, civil rights, the rights of immigrant
workers and a commitment to organizing unrepresented workers.
“This is a non-traditional merger of two non-traditional unions,” says
President Wilhelm. “Our outstanding members and staff are recognized even
outside of the labor movement; both unions are regarded for their work on
behalf of progressive causes. The HERE Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride
brought together activists of every stripe, and UNITE is largely
responsible for developing the anti-sweatshop movement in the U.S. and
UNITE HERE will be headquartered in New York City. The new union will
combine the complete resources and assets of each organization, including
the $3.6 billion Amalgamated Bank, the only union-owned bank in North