These letters arrived at my office today. I saw people were talking about this before but this is a whole new kettle of fish. Why the hell is UNITE HERE suing other unions or telling bosses to keep workers money when there are real problems to be solved, like so many people being laid off?
Letter from Workers United
Dear Monday, May 11, 2009
With deep regret, I must let you know that UNITE HERE is aggressively attacking Workers United here in Canada. Please find attached at letter I sent last week to Paul Clifford, President of UNITE HERE Local 75 and John Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industry, UNITE HERE detailing their actions.
In addition, Paul Clifford and Nick Worhaug, Canadian Director of UNITE HERE launched a law suit against me and Workers United, claiming all the assets of our union -- built by generations of low-waged garment workers -- as their own. That Paul would make such claims on garment workers' assets, after members here in Ontario already facilitated the retirement of almost $2.5 million of Local 75's debt, is greed at its worst.
The failed merger of UNITE HERE is deeply regrettable. Throughout, we have worked hard to keep ugly, public discourse about this split out of the Canadian house of labour. In March, we negotiated an agreement with the former HERE Local 75 to separate our two unions in Ontario. Now, Paul and Nick want to flame the fires of this conflict and bring this divisive fight to Canada by ripping up that agreement.
We did not wish for this conflict but neither will we back down from this blatant attack. Our union has been here since the days Toronto's sweatshops were first organized and we will answer UNITE HERE's attack campaign with all the vigor our history demands.
Secretary Treasurer, Workers United
2nd Letter that was attached
John Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industry, UNITE HERE
Paul Clifford, President, UNITE HERE Local 75
This week, through your counsel, Jim Hayes of Cavalluzzo Hayes Shilton McIntyre & Cornish, you have written the employers represented by the Ontario Council of Workers United, instructing them to no longer recognize almost 9,000 workers' union representatives. You have even suggested that employers take the dues money paid by those members and instead of sending them to the union, as required by more than 100 collective agreements, keep the funds.
We feel this is union busting at its worst and it will be answered by those same members of the Ontario Council of Workers United, who voted unanimously to leave the failed UNITE HERE merger and form Workers United.
But the actions you have taken against workers at two newly organized hotels in the Niagara region, instructing hotel owners to not bargain first collective agreements with their union, puts you in league with the most virulent anti-union employers.
At the Courtyard Marriott in Niagara Falls, an area your union represented for years and never organized in, workers fought a long hard battle for the union last fall. A small band of hotel workers signed cards, fought back against the employer and won their right to bargain a collective agreement in a vote by the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Your actions at the Courtyard Marriott have succeeded in stopping first contract negotiations. Where the employer failed to deny hotel workers their right to organize and bargain, you have temporarily succeeded. If, in the name of the incredibly divisive, bigger internal conflict in UNITE HERE, you wanted to hurt the right of hotel workers to organize, then you have succeeded and congratulations would be in order, though only hotel owners would give them.
At the Holiday Inn in St. Catharines though, your interference is even more despicable. There, as many in the Ontario labour movement know, workers trying to organize were subjected to a vicious anti-union campaign that saw Diane Barnim, a key leader of the organizing committee, fired from her job. A strong legal fight and campaign by the Ontario Council (now of Workers United), supported by labour activists across Canada called "I Stand with Diane", won her not only her job back but automatic certification of the union, as allowed for under the Ontario Labour Relations Act.
Now, as we've been working to prepare for first contract negotiations, you John Wilhelm, the President of Hospitality of UNITE HERE International, instructs the employer to not recognize Diane's union. What did Diane Barnim, a housekeeper in St. Catharines, who has shown remarkable courage, do to deserve this? Why would you ever think to stoop so low as to put low-waged hotel workers, struggling to organize a union, in the middle of the much-discussed UNITE HERE/Workers United conflict? Why, instead of Standing with Diane would you instead use her as a pawn in your international union's internal conflict? You, and Paul Clifford, International Vice-President of UNITE HERE and President of Local 75, who supported these actions, should be ashamed of yourselves.
With these actions, you're clearly telling hotel workers in Niagara that they have to fight their employers to organize and also have to fight union leaders like you to win their union.
I am writing to you today to tell you these workers have won the hard fight against their bosses and they will win against you as well.
On behalf of the members of the Workers United Ontario Council, I want to make it clear to you that we STAND WITH DIANE and the workers at the Holiday Inn and Courtyard Marriott who want their union and will get their union, despite your pathetic attempts to deny them that right. We do not stand with you.
Alex Dagg, Director, Ontario Council
Secretary Treasurer, Workers United