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This is a story about two unions who came together, fell apart, and now are harming the labor movement with their continued civil war.  Several labor leaders have called for binding arbitration to resolve the dispute over the failed merger between UNITE and HERE, which has led to the creation of Workers United as over 150,000 workers left UNITE-HERE.

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettlefinger hits the nail on the head with this in his letter to Bruce Raynor (Workers United) and John Wilhelm (UNITE-HERE):

As you well know, the attacks and counterattacks in court, in the media, and within the labor movement have become increasingly bitter and destructive. And they are doing increasing damage to workers, not only to those you represent, but to all of us.

It's harming workers and the progressive movement.  More, after the fold.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, unions were strong. One of the causes of their decline over the last 40 years is exactly what is going on in this fight.  Unions represent about 12 1/2 percent of all workers in 2008.

Currently, less than 8 percent of America's private sector work force is unionized - the lowest on record.

snip

During the 1950's, the average private sector union density rate was just under 35 percent. It wasn't until 1981, the last time that our economy was in so much trouble, that density fell back below the 20 percent threshold.

Steve Rosenthal in HuffPo, March 10, 2009

There are a lot of factors behind that decline, but the blunt reality is unions simply cannot afford this internal fight.  They are too weak overall.  All this does is aid the bosses.  It harms the entire progressive movement.

Here's some background on the split in my previous diaries:

Danny Glover, Worker Activism, and a Growing Split in Labor.

A New Union is Born: Workers United (w/ Danny Glover video)

Labor Leaders Call for UNITE/HERE Union Divorce

Mediation has failed at least twice. UFCW President Joe Hansen attempted mediation, but it failed.

Here is a statement by John Wilhelm, now president of UNITE-HERE and a statement by Andy Stern (SEIU), Edgar Rommney (Workers United) and Bruce Raynor, (former co-president of UNITE-HERE and current President Workers United) on the failure of mediation:

Workers United Statement

UNITE-HERE statement

EFCA has a provision requiring arbitration if a company and union don't agree on a first contract within a set number of days.  There's a labor civil war going on.  If arbitration is good enough for workers, it should be good enough for unions and their leaders.

Workers are asking for an end to the fight:

Dear President Raynor and President Wilhelm:

We are members of Workers United Local 471 and shop stewards.  We work for Sodexho at the Empire Plaza Convention Center in Albany, New York and our union contract expired in December of 2008.  Although members are ready and willing to go the bargaining table, our employer refuses to start negotiations, claiming that the internal dispute between Workers United and UNITE HERE prevent it from negotiating the contract because it does not know which union to negotiate with.  Both of you have an obligation to put members' interest first.  Resolving the UNITE HERE/Workers United dispute is the one clear way to achieve that priority.

We know that both of you chose your professional path because you believe in fighting for and improving the plight of the working poor.  You believe in workers' rights to have dignity at work and a voice in their union.  But we must share that your conduct as of late regarding the internal dispute between UNITE HERE and Workers United is doing a great disserve to the very members you represent.  As such, this dispute must come to an end.

To this end, we encourage both of you to enter into binding arbitration, as it is the most equitable way to resolve this dispute. Article 21-GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE, Section 2, Step 4, of our contract with Sodexho states that both parties will be bound by the Arbitrator's decision.  We ask that you both abide by the same rules you have set forth for the members.
Thank you for your time.

In solidarity,

Josephine Franco and Anne Marie Hayes

They're right: "We ask that you both abide by the same rules you have set forth for the members."

If it's good enough for workers, it's good enough for the union.

George Tedeschi, President, Graphic Communications Conference/IBT and President Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, UAW President Ron Gettlefinger and James Clancy, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of the largest unions in Canada, have written letters to both sides and  have called for binding arbitration.

Randi Weingarten asks for an end to the war:

Dear Bruce and John:

I'm writing as a friend and sister to say as plainly as I can that the battle between HERE and UNITE, and the increasingly bitter nature of it needs to end now.

snip

This conflict is causing collateral damage that goes beyond the current and former leadership and members of UNITE HERE to harm the labor movement as a whole. The longer it continues, the less likely we are to enact a strong Employee Free Choice Act that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of American working families. These hostilities undercut efforts currently under way to build a strong united labor movement that can speak and act in unison for good jobs, quality education, universal health care, and social and economic justice for all Americans.

snip

Joe Hansen's good work and recommendations provide a reasonable basis and possible first step for such a settlement, as does binding arbitration or some combination of the two.

snip

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
President

Cc: John Sweeney, AFL-CIO
     Anna Burger, Chair, Change to Win
     AFL-CIO Executive Committee
    Change to Win Leadership Council

Here's key parts of the letter from UAW President Ron Gettlefinger to Bruce Raynor (Workers United) and John Wilhelm (UNITE-HERE)

Dear Bruce and John,

Once again, I am respectfully appealing to each of you to seek a fast and fair settlement to the conflict between your two organizations.

As you well know, the attacks and counterattacks in court, in the media, and within the labor movement have become increasingly bitter and destructive. And they are doing increasing damage to workers, not only to those you represent, but to all of us.

snip

The last thing we need is an endless internal battle that consumes resources which should be devoted to building real power for working families. The longer this fight goes on, the more it will be used against all of us by the Chamber of Commerce, NAM, the National Right to Work Committee, Richard Berman, and others who are determined to destroy everything we have fought for, together, in all our years as trade unionists.

We can't let that happen. The way to stop it from happening is for your two organizations to reach a settlement as soon possible. Joe Hansen's recommendations provide one possible avenue, binding arbitration is another.

snip

In solidarity,

Ron Gettelfinger
President
International Union, UAW

Danny Glover on HuffPo last week:

What I am not proud of is what the fight between UNITE HERE and Workers United/SEIU is doing to this movement I care so much about. I stood side by side with UNITE HERE throughout the merger, but it was obvious even from the outside that that organization was not reaching its potential. I supported Workers United members when they decided to go their own way. But now, even after the formation of that new union the fighting has not stopped.

I was just in Niagara Falls, Canada with workers who finally won their union, but now can't get a contract because their employer has gotten wrapped up in this intra-union battle. That is unacceptable and I raise my voice and add to the others that are calling for a quick and fair end to the UNITE HERE merger which ends all this infighting. The stakes for folks like these hotel workers in Canada are too high to let this drag on.

I call on President Wilhelm to accept President Raynor and President Stern's offer to enter into binding arbitration. The sooner the better.

Danny Glover on HuffPo

Workers United has agreed to binding arbitration by an indeonednet arbitrator

Workers United has a petition drive asking that UNITE-HERE agree to binding arbitration:

Join us in calling on John Wilhelm, President of UNITE HERE to agree to resolve these years of conflict through an independent arbitrator.

It’s time to put workers first!

 Sign the Petition and Tell John Wilhelm: Put Workers First! Say YES to Arbitration

It is long past time to resolve this dispute and move on to organizing workers.  UNITE-HERE and Workers United need to end this in a fair manner and move forward.

Originally posted to TomP on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:26 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

    by TomP on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:26:40 AM PDT

    •  Entire letter from Randi Weingarten (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, benny05, MBNYC, xysea, Elana Levin

      May 28, 2009

      Mr. Bruce S. Raynor
      General President
      UNITE HERE
      275 7th Avenue
      New York, NY 10001-6708

      Mr. John Wilhelm
      President/Hospitality Industry
      UNITE HERE
      1775 K Street, NW Suite 620
      Washington, DC 20005-1598

      Dear Bruce and John:

      I'm writing as a friend and sister to say as plainly as I can that the battle between
      HERE and UNITE, and the increasingly bitter nature of it needs to end now.

      The inflamed rhetoric; the barrage of accusatory correspondence, advertisements and robo-calls; the judicial and parliamentary maneuvering; the internal annexations and purges; and the appeals to the rest of the labor movement to take sides paint and increasingly ugly and unrepresentative picture that threatens to stain two proud traditions, damage the interest of your members, and do irrevocable harm to the reputations of all involved.

      This conflict is causing collateral damage that goes beyond the current and former leadership and members of UNITE HERE to harm the labor movement as a whole. The longer it continues, the less likely we are to enact a strong Employee Free Choice Act that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of American working families. These hostilities undercut efforts currently under way to build a strong united labor movement that can speak and act in unison for good jobs, quality education, universal health care, and social and economic justice for all Americans.

      I ask both of you to look past your individual grievances and agree on a separation that is clean, final, and fair. Joe Hansen's good work and recommendations provide a reasonable basis and possible first step for such a settlement, as does binding arbitration or some combination of the two. You will find many in the labor movement, including myself, who are willing to offer such assistance as may be useful in helping to bring this conflict to a speedy and fair end.

      It is with deep sense of respect, solidarity and urgency that I implore you to cease hostilities immediately and agree on a settlement or a process for effecting a fair and workable dissolution so that you can move on in peace and turn your attention and considerable talents to the important and necessary work of building a strong, growing and unified labor movement.

      Together you have the power to turn the page on this chapter and move forward.
      For the sake of our movement, I ask you to do so.

      In unity,

      Randi Weingarten
      President

      Cc: John Sweeney, AFL-CIO
           Anna Burger, Chair, Change to Win
           AFL-CIO Executive Committee
          Change to Win Leadership Council

      They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

      by TomP on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:31:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Letter from George Tedeschi (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, benny05

        Bruce S. Raynor, General President

        UNITE HERE

        275 7th Avenue

        New York, NY   10001-6708

        John Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industry

        UNITE HERE

        1775 K Street, N.W., Suite 620

        Washington, D.C. 20005-1598

        Dear Bruce and John:

        It is with great concern and urgency that I write to you.  The internal situation regarding the merger of Unite Here must come to a conclusion for the sake of the entire labor movement.  I know that there have been unsuccessful attempts to resolve open issues at mediation, but I now urge you to immediately agree to get back to the table and if necessary, submit any disputed items to binding arbitration.

        The entire labor movement is being impacted by this internal dispute.  It is harming all of us at a time when we can have an incredible political impact for our members and for working families across the country.

        If there is anything that I can do in my capacity, I stand ready to assist you.

                                                                                    In solidarity,
                                                                                                                                        George Tedeschi

                                                                                       President

                                                                                       Graphic Communications Conference/IBT

        GT:ks

        cc:           James P. Hoffa

                       Andrew Stern

        They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

        by TomP on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:34:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Entire UAW letter (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, benny05, MBNYC

          June 11, 2009

          Dear Bruce and John,

          Once again, I am respectfully appealing to each of you to seek a fast and fair settlement to the conflict between your two organizations.

          As you well know, the attacks and counterattacks in court, in the media, and within the labor movement have become increasingly bitter and destructive. And they are doing increasing damage to workers, not only to those you represent, but to all of us.

          UAW members are now facing perhaps the most critical challenge in the history of our union. As we work to rebuild a great industry and renew U.S. manufacturing, we need a united labor movement to stand with us and show the positive results of collective action.

          The last thing we need is an endless internal battle that consumes resources which should be devoted to building real power for working families. The longer this fight goes on, the more it will be used against all of us by the Chamber of Commerce, NAM, the National Right to Work Committee, Richard Berman, and others who are determined to destroy everything we have fought for, together, in all our years as trade unionists.

          We can't let that happen. The way to stop it from happening is for your two organizations to reach a settlement as soon possible. Joe Hansen's recommendations provide one possible avenue, binding arbitration is another.

          Both of you have devoted your entire lives to creating a strong voice for working people. Each of you has accomplished a great deal - and once you put the current conflict to rest, I am certain that each of you will accomplish a great deal more.

          In solidarity,

          Ron Gettelfinger
          President
          International Union, UAW

          They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

          by TomP on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:34:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Bleh. This is SEIU's fault. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chrome327

      Is this going to get caught up in the larger SEIU vs. worker-run-union battles?

      Workers United has managed to jump in a particularly poor direction.  I don't believe that "President Raynor and President Stern" are making a bona fide offer of arbitration, based on SEIU's spectacular record over the past couple of years.

      Wilhelm's statement is already quite clear that the problem amounts to bad-faith negotiation by SEIU.  After their treatment of CNA and the appalling treatment of UHW-W, it's pretty believable.

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:37:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Single payer universal health care, everybody in (0+ / 0-)

      nobody out. The unions are for this right?

  •  I am a proud member of CWA (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, benny05, TomP, chrome327

    (Communications Workers of America).  The union has been the only thing keeping our benefits and pensions protected and our wages competitive.

    I wouldn't want to work anywhere non unionized ever again.

    I'm sick of GOP SOP!

    by xysea on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:30:42 AM PDT

  •  If you want a lesson in what happens (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, benny05, TomP

    when a union starts fighting itself, look at the last two years of SAG and its contract negotiations with the studios.

    "You Don't Do More With Less. You Do Less with Less. That's Why it's called Less." David Simon

    by Larry Madill on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 07:45:21 AM PDT

  •  Right on, Tom. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, TomP

    I have friends in both camps, and asked both of them to explain to me what the big problem is. Neither of them had a satisfactory answer.

    Not that there is any possible good reason to split the labor movement when we have EFCA on the table to begin with. The stuff happening between Unite and Here is nothing short of infuriating.

    Can't find my drink oh man Where are my keys, I lost my phone (phone ohoo) - Lady Gaga

    by MBNYC on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 08:09:11 AM PDT

  •  Today's Non Sequitor cartoon says it all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, indres

    in a strange way. I'm assuming that the guy at the bar is a Republican, but it could be interpreted differently I suppose.

    Here is the text:

    I stopped pursuing the American dream when I found out it means I'd need to move to France.

    Here is the link.

    "be a loyal plastic robot boy in a world that doesn't care" - Frank Zappa

    by Unbozo on Fri Jun 19, 2009 at 08:30:17 AM PDT

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