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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I get so tired of hearing of HERE's organizing successes. In reality, UNITE was the much more experienced and member-driven organizing union. HERE subscribes to the mind-numbing, five-year, pink-sheeting, style. If it is so successful, why is the density of their industries continually declining even in their so-called strongholds? Millions of dollars, for example, into Indianapolis, and four years into the campaign--no members yet. And it was all UNITE's money. Chicago and all other major markets, no new hotel victories to speak of, at least not enough to change the density percentage. You can criticicize Raynor and Stern all you want, but at least in our union we elect our own stewards; HERE appoints their personal yespeople. They are one of the most undemocratic unions I've ever encountered. Never have I seen a union tell workers they must wait years to get their union, even when the majority is signed on cards and they work for a big hotel chain. That's exactly what they have done in St. Louis and many other "middle of the country" targets. If it doesn't benefit Vegas, AC or CA they have never cared and never will. They stated at the beginning of the merger they would teach us how to organize, and didn't; and teach us how to spend our money, and they were very successful in that endeavor. They bankrupted their own union, then came after UNITE. Ask the folks in former HERE 181 in Kentucky how wonderful they are. Ask former HERE local 10, 12 and 84 members in Ohio where all their members' money went, and then go back and write an honest article.

Alana Simmons

Appleton, WI

Sep 3 2009 - 7:31pm

Web Letter

Not great, but one of the better treatments of the UNITE HERE versus SEIU struggle I've read so far. I wish Professor Dreier spent more time on the real question: Is it effective, or even possible, to build a rank-and-file labor movement with enough power to improve working conditions across whole industries by cutting deals with employers that trade union standards and shop-floor organization for increased membership (at least on paper)? That is the SEIU organizing model. UNITE HERE's organizing successes show that we can do all three: organize powerful shop-floor committees, win the right to unionize through fair processes, and win good contracts that raise industry standards. No one can argue with one lesson from the struggle: when the two organizing models go toe-to-toe on the ground, the second model wins every time. Organizing worker committees and taking power on the shop floor is not something we get around to after unionization--it is unionization.

Noel Rodriguez

Los Angeles, CA

Aug 24 2009 - 8:56pm

Web Letter

Peter Dreier’s article on the contested representation dispute between two rival unions, both claiming to represent hotel, food service, and gaming workers nationwide, while quite lengthy, leaves out several material facts relevant to the dispute.

First, Dreier’s article fails to capture the fact that there have been eleven cases brought so far before regional directors of the National Labor Relations Board, all of which have been decided in favor of our union, Workers United. In addition to the eleven Regional Directors’ decisions, there have also been five decisions issued by the full Labor Board in Washington, DC, dismissing appeals brought before it by UNITE HERE. The clear trend of these decisions indicates that the Labor Board, both regionally and nationally, recognizes our position that we, as local Workers United affiliates, are the rightful representative of workers in Philadelphia, the United States and Canada. Balanced, responsible reporting would not have neglected the clear, and undeniable, consensus of these findings.

Second, Dreier’s article fails to capture that workers are being hurt, particularly those working in Philadelphia, who have been misinformed and misled, and have been furthermore subjected to harassment, intimidation and invasions of their personal privacy, both at work and at home, by UNITE HERE organizers. As if that were not enough, their employers, feeling empowered by UNITE HERE’s competing, yet unsubstantiated, representational claims, have used the dispute as an excuse to violate their employees' rights by refusing to bargain and process grievances, and by denying representation by union staff members. Honest and socially conscious reporting would not have ignored the harmful impact that UNITE HERE’s misinformation and smear campaign against Workers United, both nationally and locally, have had on workers and their families.

Third, while Dreier is correct in accusing UNITE HERE of attacking Workers United and raiding members of our local affiliates, the notion--as Dreier puts it--that UNITE HERE did so only in retaliation is flatly wrong. The reality is our members, who felt as though they were under-represented by the former HERE union (which John Wilhelm, former HERE President, admits), voted to be represented by the Philadelphia Joint Board, and also in favor of our disaffiliation from UNITE HERE and subsequent affiliation with Workers United. Our members have made a clear and unambiguous decision, which, apparently, UNITE HERE has chosen to ignore, instead resorting to harassment, intimidation and bullying to gain control of the nearly 9,000 members we represent in the Philadelphia area. In Philadelphia, UNITE HERE initiated the attack. Fair and unbiased reporting would have uncovered this detail.

Peter Dreier and The Nation should concentrate on reporting all of the facts, rather than simply focusing on those that support the story he/they are spinning.

Lynne P. Fox

Philadelphia, PA

Aug 20 2009 - 1:41pm

Web Letter

I am the President of Local 274 of the Philadelphia Joint Board, an affiliate of Workers United. This article failed to paint an accurate picture of the lengthy and distracting labor dispute that is harming workers in Philadelphia and preventing us from focusing our energy and resources on issues truly important to workers and their families: healthcare reform, the Employee Free Choice Act, and comprehensive immigration reform.

The truth is, workers are being hurt.

UNITE HERE has turned workers into collateral damage in what your article describes as a fight between rival unions, but in reality is a raid by one union (UNITE HERE) on the membership of another (Workers United).

After forty years of service in the trade union movement, four of which I’ve had the rare and distinct honor of serving as a local union president, I never thought I’d see a union stoop so low, ethically and morally, in the name of staying in power.

For months, out-of-town organizers temporarily assigned to Philadelphia by UNITE HERE have raided our members, both at work and at home, in hopes of misleading them with lies and misinformation.

For months, they’ve resorted to bullying, intimidation and scare tactics to do what they cannot otherwise lawfully do: steal our union’s members.

For months, they’ve misused millions of dollars of union funds to interfere with union organizing, representation and bargaining in hopes of undermining our relationship with our members, and employers and our status as their representative.

While you don’t hesitate to level accusations of raiding in your article, your accusations are directed to the wrong party in this dispute. Your claim that UNITE HERE’s actions are merely retaliatory cannot be based on any evidence, and must simply be a matter of your opinion, because even the simplest investigation would have shown that UNITE HERE initiated this fight, at least in Philadelphia.

Next time, please write an article that has relevant facts that back up its premise; one that paints the entire picture, and not just the part of the picture that serves your agenda. You owe it to your readers.

Jack Rushton

Philadelphia, PA

Aug 20 2009 - 1:36pm

Web Letter

I feel your story does not delve deeply enough into the effect the actions by John Wilhelm and UniteHere have on workers' morale. I am a current and founding member of Workers United and am currently assisting the union on the Aramark Local 3 campaign in Oakland, California. On a daily basis, I witness the stress these workers endure from knowing they have no contract. Workers with as many as thirty years of service fear for their jobs, knowing that they currently have no recourse.

When we formed Workers United, we did so as a result of the irrespnsible spending by John Wilhelm and HERE that was leading our union to financial ruin. We knew full well what we were doing, and nothing was done fraudulently. John Wilhelm's claims of propriety are ludicrous. All we wanted (and the workers at Aramark still want) is the ability to negotiate good contracts and have good representation. HERE represents zero laundries. This fight, specifically in Oakland, is doing nothing more than weaken the union and disenfranchise workers. It is time for people to understand the mental hardship that is being created by John Wilhelm's destructive, anti-solidarity actions, and the effects they have on individual workers and organized labor as a whole.

Adam Alonzo

Workers United<br />San Francisco, CA

Aug 15 2009 - 12:40pm

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