The civil war within UNITE HERE escalated when John Wilhelm, the president of the union’s hospitality division announced that the union’s executive board had suspended Bruce Raynor, the general president.
Wilhelm and Raynor are at the center of what has been a very public split between UNITE HERE factions. Raynor, along with other member unions, have broken away from UNITE HERE and helped various local chapters secede to form Workers United, which is backed by the SEIU. Raynor and his dissidents have also helped the SEIU and Workers United raid and target UNITE HERE local unions for members.
In his letter to Raynor, Wilhelm wrote that “if I cannot trust you to honor the Constitution or your basic fiduciary duty to the union, it is foolish for me to think that you might honor any agreement you made in order to avoid suspension.” Wilhelm’s letter to suspend Raynor actually prevents Raynor from entering any UNITE HERE offices.
Raynor claimed that his suspension by the executive board was unconstitutional. Only Presidents, Raynor wrote, “have the right to suspend an International officer.” Defying Wilhelm’s order, Raynor said that he will “continue to exercise my authority and carry out my responsibilities as the General President of UNITE HERE, the office to which I was elected.”
The conflict between UNITE HERE and Workers United/SEIU has been particularly nasty. Both sides have accused the other of engaging in smear tactics and intimidation and harassment of union members. This latest shot will likely make matters worse, which will make it even more interesting to follow. At the very least, the public gets to see how low of a bar the unions have set when it comes to conducting their affairs. All of this should serve as fair warning about how unions will operate if EFCA passes.