Juan Gonzalez: Battle Over $12 Million Splits Labor Movement UNITE HERE

June 17, 2009


Juan González

co-host of Democracy Now! and columnist at the New York Daily News.

In the weeks before a bitter power struggle at one of the country’s biggest unions, UNITE HERE, erupted into an open split, the union’s general president ordered more than $12 million be transferred to local affiliates loyal to him and to outside groups. Bruce Raynor disbursed the money without the knowledge or required approval of the union’s co-president, John Wilhelm, UNITE HERE leaders said this week. Those funds, they claim, were then used to finance a breakaway group from the union. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, before we go down to Cuba, you have two very interesting pieces this week in the New York Daily News. Today’s, “Battle Over $12 Million Splits Labor Movement UNITE HERE.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, I reported in today’s paper that the continuing battle within UNITE HERE, the split that occurred, one of the major labor unions in the country, that in the weeks before that split, the president of the union, who has been ousted since then, Bruce Raynor, transferred more than $12 million in wire transfers out of the union’s accounts to loyal locals of his, and that money was then moved out of the union into a separate fund that Raynor set up outside and then was used to finance the split that occurred on March 7th of this year. And there are real questions being raised by the union leaders who are still running UNITE HERE as to whether this was a legal situation, since Raynor had to have co-signatures of his co-president, John Wilhelm, for any checks or any expenditures of money.

And the breakaway group, Workers United, is now part of the Service Employees International Union. And while Raynor refused to respond to my questions about all of these wire transfers — there were dozens of them that occurred, some on the eve of the split — the SEIU did say that the charges of UNITE HERE are filled with errors and that they’re not going to respond, because there’s an ongoing legal question or legal battle going on between the two sides.

AMY GOODMAN: This is also very interesting because of Amalgamated Bank.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, at the crux of the legal battle between the two groups that have split is who is going to end up controlling the Amalgamated Bank, the only union-owned bank in America, with about $4 billion in assets. A lot of people call it the crown jewel of the American labor movement. And so, there is a huge battle — who is legally still in charge of the Amalgamated Bank? — that will have to be decided by a federal court eventually.

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