The future offers great promise for workers in our common sectors

The new issue of LaborNotes has an interesting, if surprisingly bloodless, article about the struggle for control of UNITE-HERE. In broad strokes, here's the background. UNITE and HERE merged in 2004. UNITE needed the merger because the industries it primarily represented -- textiles -- had shrunk dramatically and continued to shrink. HERE needed the merger because the industries it represented -- hotel and restaurants -- had become increasingly consolidated among a few large corporations, and UNITE's control of Amalgamated Bank meant that the merged organization would have the resources needed to take on those companies. Under the terms of the merger, UNITE President Bruce Raynor took the helm of the new organization, and HERE President John Wilhelm took a back seat. There have been tension all along, but things are coming to a head now because the union is about to have its first leadership election since the merger, and Wilhelm and HERE are poised to take control.

And poised is maybe too weak a work. In point of fact, Wilhelm and his allies are already effectively in control of UNITE-HERE's exec board. At the board's last meeting in December, the board made some decisions that UNITE loyalists strongly opposed, so much so that the UNITE partisans refused to participate in the vote and Raynor followed up with a lawsuit.

Which brings us to SEIU's dear leader, Andy Stern. Following Raynor's lawsuit, Stern made an offer:
Today it is apparent to us that the merger of UNITE and HERE has failed to meet its goals that both unions had hoped for and worked towards.

After four (4) years, we believe it is time as well as necessary for our movement, for both unions to reconsider their future -- including merger into SEIU as UNITE HERE or ending their merger and returning to their previous status and merging into SEIU as separate organizations. |source (pdf!)|

I'm going to go out on a limb here and theorize that the Stern offer was invited by Raynor, who has collaborated with Stern in the past to sign secret "growth agreements" with employers. In any case, it's pretty ballsy.

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