Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Unite Here Fight Endures, Trade Union Workers are Collateral Damage

In a letter directed to Presidents Bruce Raynor and John Wilhelm, two shop stewards of Workers United Local 471 in Albany, New York describe how the divisive and destructive nature of the internal Unite Here struggle is affecting hundreds of trade union workers locally in New York. In their letter, the two workers' (Josephine Franco and Anne Marie Hayes) stories demonstrate that thousands of union workers like them are the union war's collateral damage, and later add that their Employer has openly refused them the right to bargain collectively on account of the ongoing union turmoil.

While the two workers speak openly about their personal experiences locally in NY, Josephine and Anne Marie are not alone. Rank-and-file Local 274 members here in Philadelphia, and hundreds of thousands of union workers all across the country, suffered experiences similar to those told by Josephine and Anne Marie: denial of representation and due process, and the escrowing of dues by employers confused over which union they should send check-off monies to.

As Josephine and Anne Marie rightly point out, the fight must end, now, and the two leaders must reconcile their differences and move forward for the greater good of the labor movement and our vision of a more just and democratic society.

Read the full text of the letter below.

Mr. Bruce S. Raynor, President
Workers United
31 West 15th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011

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

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