UNITE HERE, Workers United, and SEIU (continued)

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Michelle
UNITE HERE, Workers United, and SEIU (continued)

Continued from here.

For those of you who, like me, have been finding this whole story confusing, this opinion piece posted on rabble gives an overview of the conflict.  Obviously, as an opinion piece, it "takes sides," but I find it helpful in that it's been hard for me to piece together what's going on from the past few threads on babble, as an outsider.  This piece kind of goes from the beginning until now for those of us unfamiliar with the internal politics of UNITE HERE.

Caissa

Thread drift/ Aren't you on holiday? Please, enjoy it/ end thread drift.

stop raiding

Actually Michelle I think the article is more confusing than clarifying.

I also find his concluding remark bordering on the absurd. Hickey writes "...even if they [UNITE HERE] chose to continue to fight SEIU and Workers United." The vast majority of manstream and alternative media have clearly defined this as an all out attack by SEIU and WU on UNITE HERE. Have a look at an article published this morning.

 SEIU Talks Peace -- But Continues War -- on UNITE HERE

 

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/SEIU_Talks_Peace_But_Continues_War_o...

Sudbury Solidarity

Thank you for that post Michelle.  I think it is very clarifying.  I was getting sick of the last thread posts of this or that partisan American blogger who were speaking as though everyone knew the ins and outs of this war and tuned out.  Nice to see something about and from the Canadian labour movement.

The article is trying to remind the players in this fight about what really matters. I don't care what side you're on - taking workers and their ability to organize a union hostage in your internal war is wrong.  Plain and simple.  Hate SEIU and Workers United. Hate UNITE HERE, who really cares outside those organizations.  But don't hurt workers like the ones in this article just to score a win in your war. 

It seems like there are a lot of people involved in this fight who are taking themselves and their organizations way too seriously.  They're in a dangerous bubble, where all perspective is lost and where people actually say things like this is a war for the future of the movement and one side winning would mean the suicide of our movement or something like that.  Really?  I couldn't believe it when I read that coming from the mouth of a supposed progressive American labour leader guru like John Wilhelm. Give me a break.  More manufacturing jobs have been lost in Canada in the last few years than UNITE HERE has members on both sides of the border.  Perspective in this thing is important.

There are more members of the labour movement outside this fight than there are in it.  Stop thinking your he said/she said mean anything to the rest of us who are dealing with real issues, like these workers you've taken hostage are dealing with real issues.  You can't claim to be fighting for the "soul" of the labour movement while taking souless actions like the ones detailed in this piece.  Negotiate, arbitrate, heck go on some reality show and work it all out by seeing who can eat the most bugs.  I really don't care.  Just end it now.  For my part, I support whoever has a path to end this dispute and I'm willing to bet I'm not alone in that.

Unionist

Wow, great post, loyaltomyself. Thanks for joining us and sounding like a rank-and-file worker. I've been watching this discussion from the outside with the same amazement at how passionate people can become defending one faction vs. another faction, and not one person saying: Let's stop the fighting, call on everyone to unite - and if you prefer the infighting to the unity, go somewhere else.

Stick around and tell us more...

ETA: Oh, and I should add, ditto for Sudbury Solidarity!

Unionist

stop raiding wrote:

Actually Michelle I think the article is more confusing than clarifying.

Yeah, Michelle, I have to agree. I pride myself on being able to decipher byzantine union politics, but this one still leaves me scratching my head. For example:

Quote:
The CAW has launched several organizing drives at the major casino in Niagara and the UFCW represents a handful of area hotels.  The actions against Diane are about advancing a political agenda, not protecting a jurisdictional principle.  If UNITE HERE had put organizers in the field to support Diane and resources to force the employer back to the table, I could have supported those efforts but they chose, instead, to advance their own cause to the detriment of the exact workers they claim to represent.

What does the first sentence have to do with the rest of the para - or the rest of the story for that matter?

Having been part of a move to rid ourselves of U.S. ownership leadership in my union some decades ago, I'm curious to know why these workers maintain that connection, when all it seems to provide is factional fighting for division of the wealth. I don't want to oversimplify, but I'd like to know more.

 

LOYALTOMYSELF

I have been reading all the previous posts (sometimes it felt very painful to do so) and I could see almost all the participants have their loyalty well defined. Nothing wrong with that, except that when you pick sides you become biased, and no matter how well the other side's arguments are, they will never be "good" enough.

I work in a hotel for over 20 years now, and I have seen it all. This particular shameful war that HERE and WU have, will affect only one party, and that is the membership. Our employers must be salivating right now over the fact that our Union leaders are fighting over our dues. If you thought the hotel management was going to use the global economical situation to try to undermine our working conditions for the next contract, now they have an extraordinary weapon in their hands.

I am a member of HERE LOCAL 75 for over 20 years and after all this time I understand what UNIONS are all about. I appreciate the fact that our contracts have provide us with decent benefits packages, that our seniority rights are protected. But I resent the fact that our Union doesn't care where it comes to real representation trough the grievance process. We, as paying dues members, don't care much about international agendas to "organize, organize, organize". I truly believe our president is a decent man with vision, but he is too busy trying to fulfill his bosses agenda from the international. He has forgotten to ask the rank and file members what we want, and instead he is telling us what we need. It is hard to play "follow the leader" when the goals are  quite different and so distant from our own concerns.

HERE loyalists can argue we are a democratic Union with ample representation but don't forget that you  can not go against the leadership's wishes without consequence. To be a part of committees or boards, where the only thing you do is put up your hands to pass resolutions, where you sit at the negotiation table, and not to be able to open your mouth to say a word, and at the end put down your signature in the collective agreement to prove that you negotiate the contract for the rest of us, is a laughing matter. Loyalty should be to the hundreds and thousands of rank and file members who need real representation, instead to the leaders who think they know better than the rest of us.

What Hotel workers need is a grievance procedure that works. What hotel workers need is to have our departmental issues been put forward at the negotiating table. What hotel workers need is to have access to our business reps (but I guess it is difficult to be a good BR when you have to juggle 4 or 5 properties at the same time). What hotel workers need is a real pension plan that we can be proud of. What hotel workers need is a leader who listens and does not expect automatic loyalty.

What hotel workers don't need is to be pushed to attend rallies somewhere else after work, because we have to get back to our homes and our children. What hotel workers don't need is to sign cards or petitions without knowing what are we signing for. What hotels workers don't need is a pension plan that pays almost nothing when we retire. What hotel workers don't need is a leadership who does not listen to the real concerns and think we should follow blindly because they know better.

And what we definitely don't need is this infighting among greedy union leaders who fight to grab our union dues.

 

LOYALTOMYSELF

First of all, thanks UNIONIST for your kind words. I can sense you are a person who like to stay objective and informed as well. The only way to have an impartial opinion is to be able to combine  real facts and experience in order to come out with a sound argument. Sometimes many of the people involved let their hearts and passions speak for them. I have talked so many times to supporters of HERE at work, I have questioned so many times the way they do things, and the response I got time and time again is that I don't support the Union. It is sad to see this "Bush mentality approach": If you are not with us you are against us.

Many of my coworkers  drank the kool aid already and for them the leadership of the Union has the same divine quality as the pope : infallibility. One thing is to support your Union very strongly, and another is to refuse to see the facts as they are and analyse the situation, so you can come out with your own conclusions.

I truly believe that a change of Unions will not change things substantially. Unfortunately in North America the culture and essence of the Union concept is a far cry from other Unions around the world. In this parts of the world Unions are ran like business more than other thing. Unlike in other corners of the planet where Union leaders are slaughtered, in many cases, for opposing big domestic and international corporations and the government of those countries. I guess over here we are more "civilized".

I am not in favor of switching Unions, so HERE loyalists can relax. I wish our Union leaders would respect the membership by honoring our wishes and listening to our concerns, instead of adopting this arrogant attitude of "I know better, you follow only".But if I want to be realistic about the whole thing, I should expect more of the same.

 

 

3to1majority

Here is a link to a good article on upcoming Unite Here hotel contract negotiations in San Francisco: http://beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=7195#more.

After years of workers struggling for common expiry dates across provincial, state and national borders, Unite Here hotel contracts expire later this year and in early 2010 in Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hawaii.  Workers will be facing many of the major multinational companies - Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien) - in all of those negotiations at the same time.

The fight with the companies will be hard - and made harder with distracting attacks from the company union, Workers United/SEIU - but we have the opportunity for major gains this year.

Give_Me_A_Break Give_Me_A_Break's picture

People need to understand something...

Do you realize that WU/SEIU are saying that UNITE HERE gave you bad contracts and was never there for their members, etc...? Do you realize that the People of WU/SEIU who are telling this story, ARE the SAME people who DID the BAD contracts, the NO supporting of the members and etc...?!

People need to look at the whole picture!

These people of WU/SEIU use to be UNITE HERE and quit to be with WU/SEIU. They are the ones bad mouthing Unite Here! So if you think about it, the NEW union really is UNITE HERE! NOT WU/SEIU! The top officers went to WU/SEIU. UNITE HERE has all new fresh faces (RANK AND FILE MEMBERS like me for one) to fight for what we belive in! A BETTER STRONGER UNION THAT BELONGS TO THE RANK AND FILE MEMBERS AND NOT TO THE JOIN BOARDS, APPOINTED OFFICERS, PEOPLE WE CAN'T ELECT OUT OF OFFICE for not looking out for us members. etc...

UNITE HERE now belongs to all the rank and file members who want to ELECT their officers not have them appointed!

Thank you Raynor for leaving and taking your appointed officers and giving us, UNITE HERE our FREEDOM!

 

A Pittsburgh Local 57 rank and file Member!

UNITE HERE...FREEDOM AT LAST!

LOYALTOMYSELF

To the brother Give_Me_A_Break:

As a fellow rank and file member here in Canada, I must tell you that if what you said happened in Pittsburgh, it is a good sign.

In Canada, specifically in Toronto, that it's not the case. Rank and file members do not have control of the Union. We simply have to follow the direction of our president. They keep saying we are the Union but we do not have any say in what direction our affairs have. Realistically speaking that is the way Unions operate.

This mess wit UW/SEIU is their own mess created out of greed, and we are used only as ponds for their own interests.

Give_Me_A_Break Give_Me_A_Break's picture

To my union brother LOYALTOMYSELF:

It can happen there, it can happen any where! All you need is to ORGANIZE your fellow members! We, the members are making it happen! We are Organizing each other. Sometimes one by one, we organize, but we are getting done. We are getting stronger every day! Some of our Employers know we are becoming one strong union again. Standing together, side by side, shop by shop, we are DEMANDING RESPECT! And we are getting it! They are getting scared. Now don't get me wrong but It's been a major fight here believe you me! We are still in this fight and we are WINNING! We are feeling the FREEDOM! Freedom of WU/SEIU! Freedom of our Bosses! We still have a lot of work and fighting to do, it's not a done deal yet.

Where I work I didn't think we could do what we are doing today. We were all just went with the flow, not knowing what was going on. We haven't had respect for years. We had no rep. We had bad contracts (contract is up next year). We were in the dark! No one came in to talk to us. We rarely got mail from the union. Basicly just very poor all around, leadership! It was joint board and bosses alike.

Then one day out of the blue "our business agent and joint board" came in threating us and demanding us to "merger" with WU/SEIU. Not telling us why to "merge". Some of us got angry on the way we were being threatened and treated! We started talking with other shops. We started having our own meetings. We started to organize our shops and the help to organize the other shops. Our ELECTED officers are helping. (They are not the joint board but elected officers who were told that their titles don't mean anything and they aren't offical by the joint board right after the election years ago.) It's all working! It is a lot of hard work, but it is all worth it!

See when the appointed officers and leaders went and joined up Raynor and WU/SEIU, they left UNITE HERE. That means UNITE HERE is really the "NEW" union because we are all going to be fresh new faces as the ELECTED officers! We have a NEW consititution to go by, and ONE great IU President to guide us into BOTTOM UP rank and file freedom. Freedom of choices! 

For those who think that WU/SEIU is a new union, think again! 

WU/SEIU has all the old appointed officers, leaders, business agents, joint boards, etc... that gave (UNITE HERE) members [when in charge] BAD CONTRACTS, NO REP., LIED TOO, NO FREEDOM OF CHOICES, GIVING BOSSES MORE POWER ETC...

So it's new fresh loyal faces of bottom up rank and file members (UNITE HERE) or the old appointed officers, leaders, business agents, joint boards, (WU/SEIU) etc... that scewed you over before....

YOUR CHOICE!

Hmm, I think I'll take UNITE HERE!

LOYALTOMYSELF

I want to thank my brother from Pittsburgh, Give_Me_A_Break, for his response. I guess situations are different from place to place, but the important thing is that people are always fighting for their rights.

When our union HERE was merged with UNITE, it happened without the members been asked about it. Then our leaders said it was for the best, a bigger Union, more strong. After a while the relationship between the two leaders became sour and a break up was in the mix. The two Unions split and the UNITE fraction went its way. I guess they are trying to organize some properties in here, and also they want to raid some of the HERE properties as well. A nasty battle between the two parts has begun, with lawsuits and everything.

Our Local remains HERE and it holds most of the biggest hotels in the city. Our local never communicate with us about what is going on. I know all of this because I have researched about it. I do not know  why they choose not to communicate with the membership. Anyway, our contracts are up next year at the en of January and it's going to be nasty. I am sure our employers are going to take advantage of all of this infighting and try to weaken us, so we don't get what we deserve.

I hope all of this non-sense finish soon so we can present a strong front when negotiation time arrives!  Our employers should take note that no matter what, if they try to disrespect us by not offering a good contract, WE WILL BE READY SUPPORTING OUR UNION.

TW

The Retired Officers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) just sent out an open letter to the American labour movement. Rather than provide any commentary, I'm going to include some key passages from this extraordinary letter, and let the leaders speak for themselves:

 

****

 

"Having lost our retirement income security as a result of the selfish and unprincipled conduct of Bruce Raynor, we feel compelled to bring to public attention the anti-worker, anti-retiree policies of this self-described labor 'leader.'  We are particularly disgusted by the crocodile tears being shed by Raynor over the alleged attempted 'takeover' by UNITE HERE of valuable assets and real estate which the ILGWU -- not Raynor's ACTWU -- had brought to the ill-fated 1995 merger between ACTWU and ILGWU which formed UNITE."

 

****

 

"As longtime trade unionists, we have closely followed the internecine war which has broken out between the UNITE HERE factions. We are intimately familiar with the progressive values and traditions of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. Our focus, historically, has always been to benefit the workers, without regard to craft or industry. A hotel worker is as much a member of the working class as a garment worker in our day. We are more concerned with the principles which guide the union than with the members’ trade or craft. We firmly believe in rank and file democracy; we abhor the “top down” leadership style of Bruce Raynor. At our last meeting, we applauded his eviction from our House of Labor.

On the other hand, we view favorably the “bottom up” style of democratic union leadership represented by John Wilhelm and incorporated into UNITE HERE’s new Constitution. Unlike Raynor,who has refused over the years to meet with the ILGers, John Wilhelm has sought us out, met with us, knows about the history of our dear union, the ILGWU, and understands the need to benefit from our experiences as organizers and trade unionists.

Finally, we have learned over decades with the ILGWU, that the raiding by one union of another union’s members is totally
unacceptable, inimical to the working class, and destructive of the values we stand for as ILGers. Raynor is a banker first and foremost. Wilhelm is a trade unionist.

We look forward to UNITE HERE gaining full control over all former ILGWU assets and buildings. Once UNITE HERE achieves that goal we will all feel comfortable again visiting our House of Labor at 275 Seventh Avenue and sharing our experiences with the young hotel and restaurant organizers and workers who make up UNITE HERE."

 

*****

 

The press release can be found here.

The full letter from the Retired Officers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union can be found here.

TW

Today Unite Here released a research piece on former President Bruce Raynor's sorry financial legacy as the head of UNITE and ACTWU.

From the conclusion:

"Bruce Raynor maintains that the assets of Unite Here “belong” to him. This claim is an insult to garment workers, and all trade unionists, who believe that union members ultimately own and democratically control the Union’s assets – not any one labor leader.

In 2004, members of UNITE and HERE democratically approved a new constitution and merger agreement, each contributing their assets to the new union. Rather than settling his differences at Unite Here through the democratic process, Raynor chose to split the union apart in a civil war, claiming the assets of Unite Here as the property of his band of allies. These actions by Raynor dishonor the legacy of all trade unionists that have fought for a democratic labor movement."

 

 

 

 

3to1majority

Labour Day

How strange: Workers United is not registered for the Toronto Labour Day Parade.  Since they missed the Labour Council march earlier this summer, never showed up to any of the CUPE rallies and picket lines, and haven't turned out anyone to the CEP lockout at the TD Centre, why bother pretending in the Labour Day Parade?

Unionist

Don't you people celebrate Mayday? What is this "Labour Day" U.S. stuff?

 

pbandj

A few questions if you will....

1) Why, when UNITE and HERE merged, was local 75 in arrears to the International to the amount of $2.5 million?

2) The "fight" is not with Canada. The lawsuits are strictly against Ontario Joint Council? Why is that when 2 months prior to the intitation of these lawsuits there was an agreement signed by all parties, including John Wilhelm, to satisfy all areas, including money. Did someone have their fingers crossed when they signed it?

3) How can a local under trusteeship lend local 75 a substaincial amount of money to sustain the lawsuits that they have initiated?

LOYALTOMYSELF

Here we go again!

Brothers...... brothers...... I know it is a beauty in this country to exercise our freedom of speech and express our own opinions, but when you engage in throwing mud to the party you don't support, it is just silly.

Yes, I am referring to you 3 to 1 majority  who supports HERE obviously; and to you pbandj who obviously supports WU/UNITE. Are you rank and file members or these Unions? Or maybe you are employed by either one of them. If the later is the case you should think instead how can you serve your members in a more effective way. If on the contrary you are a rank and file member then you should think how your Local can improve service to the members by demanding from your Union leaders to do a better job.

The reality is hospitality workers deserve better. And until these greedy mongrels don't stop using members as ponds, we won't see any improvements in the workers lives.

Shame!

pbandj

3to1majority wrote:

Labour Day

How strange: Workers United is not registered for the Toronto Labour Day Parade.  Since they missed the Labour Council march earlier this summer, never showed up to any of the CUPE rallies and picket lines, and haven't turned out anyone to the CEP lockout at the TD Centre, why bother pretending in the Labour Day Parade?

 

3to1...

Unlike local 75, Workers United and its local reside all over Ontario. Some members have to travel several hours to attend events that occur on weekdays, which also mean missing time off work, which we all know, nobody can afford to lose right now. Most local are in manufacturing... it isn't as simple as getting someone to cover your shift so you can attend these events....

As for Labour Day, many of the communities we live in hold functions to celebrate the worker, unionized or not, and I, for one, am active in attending and helping out with these events and meeting people in my city that carry the same burdens that I do.

pbandj

LOYALTOMYSELF wrote:

Here we go again!

Brothers...... brothers...... I know it is a beauty in this country to exercise our freedom of speech and express our own opinions, but when you engage in throwing mud to the party you don't support, it is just silly.

Yes, I am referring to you 3 to 1 majority  who supports HERE obviously; and to you pbandj who obviously supports WU/UNITE. Are you rank and file members or these Unions? Or maybe you are employed by either one of them. If the later is the case you should think instead how can you serve your members in a more effective way. If on the contrary you are a rank and file member then you should think how your Local can improve service to the members by demanding from your Union leaders to do a better job.

The reality is hospitality workers deserve better. And until these greedy mongrels don't stop using members as ponds, we won't see any improvements in the workers lives.

Shame!

 

I assure you, loyal, that I am a manufacturing rank and file member and a leader in my local as well as in Ontario Council. You may even know me.

The reality is that ALL WORKERS deserve better.. not just one sector of employment. This is part of the problem.... there is a serious lack of understanding of how the other side works. My members get serviced quite well by both the local's executive board, and by our service rep. I am fighting to keep members from being laid off.

pbandj

TW wrote:

The Retired Officers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) just sent out an open letter to the American labour movement. Rather than provide any commentary, I'm going to include some key passages from this extraordinary letter, and let the leaders speak for themselves:

 

****

 

"Having lost our retirement income security as a result of the selfish and unprincipled conduct of Bruce Raynor, we feel compelled to bring to public attention the anti-worker, anti-retiree policies of this self-described labor 'leader.'  We are particularly disgusted by the crocodile tears being shed by Raynor over the alleged attempted 'takeover' by UNITE HERE of valuable assets and real estate which the ILGWU -- not Raynor's ACTWU -- had brought to the ill-fated 1995 merger between ACTWU and ILGWU which formed UNITE."

 

****

 

"As longtime trade unionists, we have closely followed the internecine war which has broken out between the UNITE HERE factions. We are intimately familiar with the progressive values and traditions of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. Our focus, historically, has always been to benefit the workers, without regard to craft or industry. A hotel worker is as much a member of the working class as a garment worker in our day. We are more concerned with the principles which guide the union than with the members’ trade or craft. We firmly believe in rank and file democracy; we abhor the “top down” leadership style of Bruce Raynor. At our last meeting, we applauded his eviction from our House of Labor.

On the other hand, we view favorably the “bottom up” style of democratic union leadership represented by John Wilhelm and incorporated into UNITE HERE’s new Constitution. Unlike Raynor,who has refused over the years to meet with the ILGers, John Wilhelm has sought us out, met with us, knows about the history of our dear union, the ILGWU, and understands the need to benefit from our experiences as organizers and trade unionists.

Finally, we have learned over decades with the ILGWU, that the raiding by one union of another union’s members is totally
unacceptable, inimical to the working class, and destructive of the values we stand for as ILGers. Raynor is a banker first and foremost. Wilhelm is a trade unionist.

We look forward to UNITE HERE gaining full control over all former ILGWU assets and buildings. Once UNITE HERE achieves that goal we will all feel comfortable again visiting our House of Labor at 275 Seventh Avenue and sharing our experiences with the young hotel and restaurant organizers and workers who make up UNITE HERE."

 

*****

 

The press release can be found here.

The full letter from the Retired Officers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union can be found here.

 

Sigh... it is easy to find former disgruntled workers of any union. I am sure that the same can be done for UNITE HERE, specifically the HERE part as well. Duck, loyal... that was a bit of mud slinging.... but only to inform my friend that things go two ways.

Eric Klyne Eric Klyne's picture

Wow!

I've just briefly read through this issue... could have inserted "IBEW" here and there.

"International" Unions... American Unions... seem to be a common thread in most of the woes that Canadian Union members face.

Hopefully this will end with the Union Members benefitting... instead of the few questionable Union officers.

LOYALTOMYSELF

Why is it, that we, as Canadians, seem to depend on International Unions to operate as such?

I have to agree with Eric Klyne in regards with our woes as organized labour in Canada. Let's remember what happened to CAW when they broke away from their American counterpart. I wonder if we, here in Canada, are able to cut the umbilical cord and run our own Unions.

Do we always have to depend on the international Unions to survive?

 

stop raiding

Your post raises the interesting debate in regards to internationalism and nationalism as it relates to the labour movement. I subscribe to Marx's call for workers of the world to unite - not workers of a particular geopolitical area. If, for example, hotel workers around the world were united as a single union then they would have considerably more power than if hotel workers were united in national silos and potentially pitted against each other. 

During tough times I often find there is a propensity by some to wrap themselves in the flag and push protectionist measures. We are hearing those rallying cries happening during this economic downturn. Or when there is an internal struggle within a union to use the location of their central office as a reason for their troubles. The conflicts that have arisen within UNITE HERE WU/SEIU appear to be more about cultural and leadership differences. These internal conflicts are not specific to international unions alone.

As trade unionists we should be looking to unite workers of all nationalities to defend our rights, our jobs and to challenge the concessions that workers around the world are facing. Instead of regressing into a nationalist mindset we should be striving to make our unions more democratic and truly international (not just Canada and the US).   

Unionist

Well, stop raiding, when Canadian workers suffer the consequences of U.S. union officials fighting to the death over the ownership of money and real estate, then it's only natural that they start wondering why they really need to belong to a union headquartered in the U.S. Internationalism is a very nice slogan, when it's a voluntary partnership of equal partners.

 

stop raiding

Well, unionist, Internationalism may be a nice slogan for you but it is a world view for me and one that I wholeheartedly subscribe to. Forgive me for attempting to explore an ideal on a discussion group and attempting to discuss an issue that seems to be percolating throughout the thread (Int vs Nat). You seem to have considerable insights into this International union so could you please enlighten me as to how you reached the conclusion that canadian workers are not in a voluntary partnership with their sisters and brothers in the US.  Some examples would be nice.

LOYALTOMYSELF

Taking in consideration your opinions about this issue, I must say that brother stop raiding has a valid point when he says all workers should be united to present a strong front. However brother, looking at all the mess created due to politics and greed from some labour leaders in the US, affecting us here in Canada, I have to ask you:

Don"t you think would it be better if we run our own operations?

Why all the decisions have to be made in the US?

Leaving aside "nationalistic feelings" as you said, and thinking in a more "equal" partnership, it would be fair if we have a say in the direction and philosophical and strategic principles to follow. Then it comes the management of the money, all the revenue that our Union dues generate and which part of it goes south every month.

Finally brother, I do not know in which capacity you contribute to the struggle, but speaking for myself, I can tell you that as a rank and file member of my Union, honestly, I don"t think we are in a voluntary partnership. If the members were asked today if they rather be in the International Union, I am pretty sure the majority would say NO, not because we are anti americans but because we would like to have more control over own affairs.

TW

The following article from Labor Notes includes a good discussion of why workers need to fight for growth with standards.

 

 

Food Service Workers Buck Secret Organizing Deals

 

Paul Abowd

Labor Notes

 

A delegation of U.S. food service workers flew to the Paris headquarters of their employer Sodexo last winter, delivering petitions against the company’s anti-union practices. They also took to the streets, joining French food service workers in the general strike rippling through the country. For one of the Americans, a member of Service Workers United, the act of solidarity abroad would have been a breach of contract back home.

 

UNITE HERE and the Service Employees (SEIU) had formed the joint union called Service Workers United, or SWU, in 2005. In secret talks with multinational food service giants Sodexo, Compass, and Aramark, the new union traded a lot—including workers’ right to strike—for contracts in a low-wage, hard-to-organize industry dominated by the “Big 3.” Aramark dropped out of the talks, but made a separate pact later that year.

 

To seal the unprecedented deals, contract standards were settled before the first worker signed a card. Workers faced termination if they slowed down or picketed. Conflicts over terms of the agreement would go before a national labor-management committee instead.

 

 

TW

Unite Here Local 634 just won a HUGE victory in Philadelphia (click here for the press release, and here for some breaking coverage).

Philadelphia cafeteria workers voted 2 to 1 to stay with Unite Here in the face of an attempted displacement by SEIU's Philadelphia Joint Board.

From the press release:

"This is the third noteworthy victory for UNITE HERE in recent months in its struggle against SEIU. In August, 2000 Delaware North company food service workers ratified a contract with UNITE HERE, thwarting a SEIU raid in the process. Three weeks ago, 2,300 members of Local 74 in St. Louis voted to reaffirm their affiliation with UNITE HERE. Together with today's win, these 6,600 workers join over 23,000 others across North America who have resisted SEIU and returned to or stayed with UNITE HERE."

TW

More coverage of yesterday's big vote in Philadelphia...

 

UNITE HERE Delivers Crushing Blow to SEIU in Philadelphia

Beyond Chron   Randy Shaw   October 28, 2009

SEIU’s campaign to take over key UNITE HERE locals suffered a major setback yesterday, as 2300 workers at the Philadelphia School District voted by a 2-1 margin to remain affiliated with UNITE HERE rather than switch to SEIU. The New York‑based SEIU 32BJ had led efforts to win the election, viewing Philadelphia as a stepping stone to its larger goal of taking over all of UNITE HERE’s food service locals. Instead, workers dealt SEIU a crushing 1,121-551 defeat. UNITE HERE’s victory comes after recent wins over SEIU in St. Louis and among Delaware North company food service workers, indicating that not only has SEIU’s attempted raids failed, but UNITE HERE is even stronger today than when SEIU’s attacks began.

Yesterday’s UNITE HERE victory in Philadelphia does not end Bruce Raynor’s and SEIU’s hostile takeover campaign, but it leaves them without a clear target for future membership gains. SEIU pulled out all the stops in Philly, and yet its attempt to woo workers was soundly rejected. 

Michelle

When posting articles, please quote a small portion and link to the rest.  Thanks!

jaly100

An Open Letter:

It is a tremendous disappointment to Unite Here staff members represented by our staff union, UUHS, that Steven Greenhouse and The New York Times chose to publish such a one-­‐sided piece about alleged practices within Unite Here. His story is founded on trumped-­‐up claims made by disgruntled former staffers, one of whom currently works for SEIU, and another who helped SEIU interfere with an organizing campaign.

We are shocked by Mr. Greenhouse’s irresponsible reporting and lack of journalistic integrity. Greenhouse failed to place the issue of “pink sheeting” into the broader context of SEIU’s attacks on our Union, made a few isolated incidents look like an institutional conspiracy, and even speculated that a painful part of the UFW’s history is somehow related to Unite Here. For this he offered little or no evidence and support. Mr. Greenhouse willfully omitted the views and opinions of current staff members whom he interviewed, despite the fact that he talked with an elected leader of UUHS for over an hour. UUHS acknowledges that Unite Here, like any large organization, faces challenges. The role of our staff union is to ensure a check and balance system in Unite Here, and to critically address issues in a productive way. We condemn any invasion of our members’ privacy.

However, readers should know that in October, an overwhelming majority of Unite Here staff chose to leave our former staff union, FOUR, and join UUHS. The reason being that FOUR, now the representative for Workers United staff, colluded with WU/SEIU by sensationalizing serious allegations to the press, and even intentionally ignored grievances by staff in a cynical effort to damage Unite Here. Failing to even acknowledge this aspect of the controversy, Mr. Greenhouse merely contributed to their efforts and produced a tabloid distortion of the truth. As current staff, our experience with Unite Here is that it fosters our ability to think and critique, contribute intelligently, and creates space for us to challenge and discuss key decisions of the union.

We are proud of its organizing culture. Organizers are committed to building deep and trusting relationships with workers, in which they relate as complete human beings; there is mutual recognition that both organizers and workers are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, care-­‐takers of family, and members of our communities.

No one is just a worker at a job site. It is this dedication that has allowed rank and file members to become leaders in our union and the broader movement for social justice, and has made Unite Here a strong and member-­‐driven leader of the North American labor movement.

Polunatic2

I too am watching this from a distance so my comments could be off-base.

This reminds me a bit of the CAW / SEIU fracas several years back, except this time, it looks as if the tables are turned. SEIU went to the wall accusing the CAW of (successfully) "raiding" a number of bargaining units during their open period. In fact, the repercussions are still felt today as the CAW never rejoined the Ontario Federation of Labour after they were (temporarily) suspended from the Canadian Labour Congress.

At the time, I supported the rights of workers to belong to the union of their choice and not be treated as chattel. 

I still fully support that principle but am not sympathetic to crocodile tears from those who supported the right of the SEIU to hold on to those members no matter what they wanted or how dissatisfied they were. Now that the shoe appears to be on the other foot, i.e. it looks apparent that the SEIU "raided" UNITE/HERE in the same fashion that they were raided by  the CAW, the tune has changed. They are now supporters of workers rights to belong to the union of their choice (as long as its their union). 

TW

Some recent news on the SEIU/Workers United front...

In his Politico blog, Ben Smith reports Workers United has downsized due to financial pressures.

He also provides a link to a memo from Unite Here President John Wilhelm which outlines the union's position one year into the fight with SEIU/WU. In that memo, Wilhelm says, "We did not choose this struggle, and it is not over, but we have achieved enough success to feel very confident that we can continue our SEIU struggle while aggressively carrying out our primary tasks of representing our members’ interests and organizing the unorganized in our core industries." The bottom line message - it hasn't been a good year for Andy Stern's SEIU in the US, or for WU in the US and Canada.

Finally, Ben Smith provides a link to a document that shows SEIU and WU have renegotiated their initial affiliation agreement of March 2009. SEIU has taken more control over WU's staffing decision-making. Considering the number of WU staff who've been laid off, moved to SEIU, or who've quit outright, I'm not sure WU staffing will be an issue for much longer!

Pittsburgher

I know a lot of people are commenting from all over, but I wanted everyone to know a little about the situation in Pittsburgh first hand.

Currently the raid by seiu has turned around, Unite Here is now on the offensive and SEIU is taking some very underhanded approaches to attack us. Currently 15 contracts are going to expire this year most in March to my knowledge.

Sheraton Hotel, Crown Plaza, Doubletree Hotel, Chatham Tower, LSG/Sky chefs (airport food service) IUP-Aramark, Point Park-Aramark, AVI Food Systems, US Steel Dining rooms-AVI, PPG-Eurest, Allegheny community college -st.moritz, westminster-sodexho, and El Teq.

The latest of underhanded tactics is currently involved with the melon arena. They are going door to door of workers telling them that they will only get jobs at the new arena if the go with SEIU. On top of that outright lie, they are using false names, many of which are names of UNITE HERE organizers.

Not only are these locations hurting, but many are unware that the Pittsburgh Convention Center also know as the DAVID L. LAWRENCE convention center is a unite here location.  Members of the catering company  Levy Restaurant group ( part of COMPASS) are also being attacked.  Currently their contract is in progress, but never signed  and was written with improper lingo, and headings causing confusion in our effort to state that UNITE HERE and only UNITE HERE is our union. Management has put our dues in escrow and have blocked out UNITE HERE represenatives from coming in the building.

Management at the convention center is trying to use this raid as a tool to hurt us. They say that they do not know who are real union is and therefore will not let anyone in to represent us. Before that decision was made SEIU reps. held a vote to switch our union in the breakroom with less than 10% of our staff and made deals with the management.  So far petitions have been signed and almost all of the workers have backed UNITE HERE. we still however have 2 shop stewards ( who became such after this raid started) that are being paid by SEIU to also organize from with in.(there may even be more that i am unaware of)

The abuse of power by management in all these locations is disgusting and hurting my fellow workers. SEIU's raid is fueling it in ways that the general public and outsiders could never even realize. I am amazed at how companys think so little of the employee's that make the business function.

In the upcoming months Pittsburgh is going to be going through some great struggles and will be quite loud in the labour movement! I know we will have great success, because everyone with UNITE HERE! is ready to fight in this town. Pittsburgh is going to remember again why it is a union town!

I hope all UNITE HERE supporters keep a close ear to what is going to happen in Pittsburgh.

15 contracts expire in the same month, that is gonna be one hell of a fight!

3to1majority

New light has been shed on the legend that WU/SEIU President Bruce Raynor was central to the history behind the movie "Norma Rae":

 

'Norma Rae' criticized old ally

 

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0310/Norma_Rae_criticized_old_ally.html

TW

More recent news on Bruce Raynor, President of Workers United (an affiliate of SEIU)...

According to this press report, "One of the country's best-known labor leaders is under the microscope after a court-appointed labor watchdog urged a federal probe of whether he siphoned more than $15 million from his former union."

According to an independent panel, while he was still President of UNITE HERE Raynor allegedly transfered $15 million in funds and assets to loyal locals. Weeks later, Raynor split from UNITE HERE and helped to form 'Workers United.'

Note that Raynor is not the only one who could be in trouble - "The panel also concluded that Raynor's aides tried unsuccessfully to get the union's outside accounting firm to redo eight years of financial reports to make their siphoning of $3.9 million appear to be loan repayments.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

U.S. nurses rising up
Nurses around the United States are standing up for themselves and their patients, both through local labor disputes and the strengthening of a new national union. The Real News looks into the new union, a labor victory in Philadelphia, and a looming strike in Washington, D.C.

Produced by Jesse Freeston.

video:
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&I...

robbie_dee

Daniel Massey, [url=http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20100712/FREE/100719977]Hotel and garment unions settle on divorce terms,[/url] Crain's New York Business, July 12, 2010.

After failed marriage of two big unions, garment workers to keep longtime cash cow Amalgamated Bank, while hotel workers to walk away with a Seventh Avenue office tower worth $70 million.

Quote:
The garment workers union will hang on to Amalgamated Bank and the hotel workers union will gain ownership of a 600,000-square-foot Seventh Avenue office tower under terms of a tentative deal to end the bloody civil war that has raged between the two groups for nearly two years, sources on both sides said Monday.

As part of the deal, which still needs to be approved by the executive boards of both unions, the garment workers (Workers United) will also fork over a hefty amount of cash to the hotel workers (Unite Here). The total value of the deal to Unite Here, including the estimated $70 million, 28-story building, could be more than $150 million, according to sources familiar with the agreement. Unite Here will also regain control of some bargaining units that had flipped over to Workers United during the battle.

The trouble began almost immediately after the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees joined with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union in 2004 to create Unite Here, a 400,000-member group that presumably would wield dramatically enhanced clout. The relationship proved rocky from the start, as President Bruce Raynor of the garment workers' side and President John Wilhelm from the hospitality side fought for power, virtually paralyzing the New York City-based union.

The garment workers were a wealthy union, with holdings including real estate in New York City and Amalgamated Bank, which has nearly $5 billion in assets. The hotel workers had little in the way of financial assets, but added 250,000 members to the union's ranks at a time when the dying textile industry threatened Unite's membership.

When Mr. Raynor tried to annul the marriage, Mr. Wilhelm's faction blocked the move. Some 100,000 of the garment workers then formed a breakaway union, Workers United, which affiliated with the powerful Service Employees International Union, led until recently by Andy Stern.

SEIU's new president, Mary Kay Henry, was determined to end the fight and played an influential role in hammering out the tentative deal with Mr. Wilhelm, sources said. Its affiliate is paying a hefty price, but after almost two years of fighting that took time and resources away from organizing workers and a toll on the union's reputation, leaders were anxious for peace, at whatever price.

 

Unionist

Thanks, robbie_dee. Seems like an appropriate point at which to repeat my post of last August:

Unionist wrote:
[W]hen Canadian workers suffer the consequences of U.S. union officials fighting to the death over the ownership of money and real estate, then it's only natural that they start wondering why they really need to belong to a union headquartered in the U.S. Internationalism is a very nice slogan, when it's a voluntary partnership of equal partners.

TW

A settlement has finally been reached in the fight between UNITE HERE, SEIU and Workers United.

You can read more about the settlement in Labor Notes, Beyond Chron and In These Times.

It's not yet clear what impact (if any) this settlement will have in Ontario.

TW

The OLRB has issued a decsion in the long-running dispute between UNITE HERE and Workers United here in Ontario. The Board's  decision strongly supports UNITE HERE's position and is a stinging rebuke against Workers United and its leader, Alex Dagg.

The full OLRB decision can be found here.

There's more information about the Board's decision and what it means for the labour movement on UNITE HERE Canada's website.

The main decision from the Board states, "..the Workers United Ontario Council is not the same entity as, or the successor to, the UNITE HERE Ontario Council."

Interestingly, the Board goes out of its way to discuss the issue of witness credibility. Regarding the testimony of WU Ontario Council leader Alex Dagg, the Board said, "Regrettably, I found Ms. Dagg to be a witness whose testimony was very difficult to accept at face value. It became evident during the course of her testimony that Ms. Dagg tends to perceive objective events through an oddly-shaped lens that has the effect of distorting those events into a shape that is markedly different than that experieinced by other." The Board also states, "In fact, Ms. Dagg expended considerable time and energy during her testimony not answering the questions that were put to her, instead using the question as an opportunity to communicate a position that she wanted the Board to hear."

stop raiding

The OLRB decision is shocking reading. "Stinging rebuke" is a gross understatement. I don't know how these folks can consider themselves trade unionists. The leadership of WU has now officially elevated their status to the likes of CLAC and should be treated with the same contempt. I feel sorry for the members.

3to1majority

Given how much WU's leaders and supporters claimed to speak for the democratic will of the workers - while refusing to publicly provide any vote results - I enjoyed the parts of Labour Relations Board's decision that evaluated some of the so-called votes for disaffilation from UNITE HERE:

Tiercon: "Of the 161 employees eligible to vote on the issue of disaffiliation, only 22 actually showed up to vote - a participation rate of 14 percent."

Owens Corning: "Of the 171 employees eligible to vote on the issue of disaffiliation, only 17 actually showed up to vote - a participation rate of 10 percent."

Aramark: "However, of the 549 employees eligible to vote on disaffiliation, only 19 actually showed up to vote - a participation rate of only 3.5 percent.  Ms. Dagg conceded in her testimony that this turnout was 'not particularly good'".

redemma

As an active trade unionist of 11 years (front line worker in social services for those of you who want to question my street cred) I've followed the Workers United/Unite Here debate on Babble with increasing frustration...I am a Workers United member and am truly disappointed by Shouldice's recent decision.

 
Like all Vegas marriages the union between the former unions of UNITE and HERE seemed like a good idea (if only for the catchy name) at the time. UNITE had seen significant erosion of our manufacturing based membership as jobs went offshore. HERE had significant levels of debt but a membership base whose jobs could not be shipped overseas since they worked in hotels. The arrangement seemed ideal.

It quickly became apparent that it wasn't. Despite similarities in the demographics of our membership, it became apparent to me and others that the HERE side was hell-bent on taking all the resources of the UNITE side and pushing the entire leadership out the door along with our "incorrect analysis" (the wacky idea that all workers everywhere deserve representation even if they are in "non-strategic" industries or regions).

The divorce was ugly. There were efforts at counselling and mediation but they appeared (to me anyway) to be distinctly one-sided. It felt to me like someone who had supported their spouse through law school only to have them run off with a chorus girl and be awarded the house, the contents of the bank account and the children by a hungover justice of the peace.

It was very damaging to our members. My local's efforts to carry on everyday grievance handling and bargaining were significantly undermined by deliberate misrepresentation to my employer and the subsequent escrowing of our dues.

This past summer, a settlement was reached in the US that covered all of the US and the other provinces of Canada but not in Ontario. In Ontario, Unite Here walked away from the table.

 Despite the cartwheels done by the staff of the former Unite Here Local 75, Shouldice's decision was not the ringing endorsement that it is being portrayed as. It merely said that the UNITE side of the union in Ontario was not allowed to leave in the way that it did. It is not immediately evident that the units who have not yet had a chance to have a displacement vote should go to Unite Here Local 75. Keep in mind that Local 75 is an organization that most of the remaining units have never had any dealings with and had no part in their organization, or representation.

I was there when Rogers Centre was organized. Local 75 was not. The organizing of American Eagle? Local 75 was M.I.A. I know many of the leaders of locals and workplaces that have been part of UNITE and its predessor unions for decades and have never even met anyone from the Hotel side of the union and yet Unite Here Local 75 is claiming to represent them now.

 To further rub salt in our wounds Unite Here Local 75 has shown how little interest they have in these workers as anything other than bargaining chips. They have approached other unions to get rid of the workers they don't want. Local 75 invited CUPE to try to raid my workplace and two other social service agencies just like it. They have given the members in Niagara Falls to UFCW. And they have engaged the Steelworkers in an "alliance" for the remaining manufacturing units.

 And lest you think that I am making this up, Paul Clifford testified to the CUPE and UFCW deals in the labour board hearing, and I can show you the Steelworker flyers announcing the alliance.

In the end, this will come down to workers voting what they want to do. So far, approximately 50 OLRB votes have taken place across the province and Workers United has been the overwhelming victor in those votes (with an average support rate of 93%). It's too bad that the initial board chair on our case decided to not listen to our initial request which was to vote all the units in question and let the workers decide.

In the end, that's what will happen anyway, but millions of dollars have been spent on lawyers' fees and organizers. Most importantly however are the wasted opportunities for vulnerable workers in precarious sectors to be organized, protected and represented . And I'm not drinking the Kool-aid when I tell you that these basic functions of unionism are what we as members have wanted all along. I for one will continue to fight until all members of the Ontario Council have had a chance to vote to determine what union they are part of.

 

Victoria Bowman
Local 154
Social Service Worker by day
Former Chief Shop Steward in my workplace
Ontario Executive Board Member by night

 

pbandj

What I find ironic is that the very union UNITE HERE now pledges an alliance with is the same union that their portion of the executive board a couple of years ago bad mouthed for "stealing" some of their hotel locals.

winny pillow

The OLRB decision and the comments above make it clear that Local 75 doesn't covet the Ontario Council units for their own sake. It is to the credit of Local 75 that units outside its core industry are allowed to affiliate with other unions that are better placed to organize them. Contrast the idea that unions need to squabble over members (and their dues) at all costs, by any means, and in any industry. 

It's definitely a sad story for the rank-and-file members of the Ontario Council. Their problems long pre-date the UNITE HERE merger. Perhaps the poor leadership they endured with characters like Dagg and Raynor could have been defeated democratically and replaced within the UNITE HERE constitutional structure. We'll never know because they bolted, illegally, with the union's resources and plunged it into "war" (Raynor's terms), as recounted in sordid detail in the OLRB decision. 

The actions of Dagg and Raynor have definitely complicated and delayed the finding of a solution for the OC members. Those workers deserve better leadership, a legitimate union to belong to and a fair process to determine their own fate. It might make sense for some units to remain with UH and for others to affiliate with other unions. They certainly didn't deserve to be put through Dagg's disaffiliation charade, described in the OLRB decision. (see comment #44)

redemma

Re: Winny Pillow's response.

Ahhh. An interesting take. "The OLRB decision makes clear that the Local 75 doesn't covet the Ontario Council Units for their own sake. It is to the credit of Local 75 that units outside its core industry are allowed to affliliate with unions that are better placed to organize them".  

I might entertain this thought for a few minutes  had I not been on the receiving end of a phone call at home from a Local 75 staffer who left a very detailed message regarding how UNITE HERE Local 75 was "really" my union of representation.  And yet my local was then  "really" going to get handed over on a platter to a union it had not voted for. Hardly the "fair process to determine our own fate" that we deserved.

Being offered a choice was important to my local which is why we decided to be part of Workers United when we had our OLRB vote. The staff had provided outstanding servicing to us over the years and we had every reason to believe that they would continue to do so.

It is my understanding that it was for similar reasons that 85 percent of food service workers from Vermont Square decided to go with Workers United when they had their OLRB vote just before Christmas. They had originally stayed with UNITE HERE a year ago but went with Workers United when it became apparent that this was way in which they were going to actually get servicing.

As for "disaffiliation charades" I'll take a choice to remain with or disaffiliate any day over being promised out to other unions without the courtesy of a consultation, notice or a vote.

 

Victoria Bowman

Workers United Local 154

Social Worker by Day

Former Chief  Shop Steward in my workplace

Ontario Executive Board Member by night

  

 

pbandj

winny pillow wrote:

The OLRB decision and the comments above make it clear that Local 75 doesn't covet the Ontario Council units for their own sake. It is to the credit of Local 75 that units outside its core industry are allowed to affiliate with other unions that are better placed to organize them. Contrast the idea that unions need to squabble over members (and their dues) at all costs, by any means, and in any industry. 

Honestly... how can you claim that you know best for the local outside UH's "core industry" and territory when there is no idea the scope of the locals you claim you know what is best for them? Allow to affiliate with other unions you say? What if we want to be affiliated with WU? Or will that be not an option in UH's eyes because of what has transpired? Ontario Council... do you speak of UH Ontario Council... for it does not exist.

Secondly, you speak of "core industry". Do you, dear winny, understand what the UNITE part of the name stands for, other than sounding catchy? It seems to me that it is still just HERE, with pretty lights and bells.

TW

The UNITE HERE Canada website has been updated and you can read the OLRB's response in the next wave of activity before the Board. After the December 15th decision UNITE HERE applied for an interim order from the Board.

The Board's reponse will probably only make sense if you've read the December 15th decision, but the main point is:

"..UNITE HERE asserts that under no circumstances can the second part of the initial litigation ground any further claim by the WUOC to any of the representation rights still in play. I am inclined to the view that the assertion made by UNITE HERE is correct."

 

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