Sept. 15, 2005 – In a widely anticipated move, the board of the nationâ€™s largest hospitality and garment workers union voted to leave the AFL-CIO yesterday. Tuesdayâ€™s vote by UNITE HERE, a founding member of a collection of unions seeking new ways to organize workers, came after months of internal discussion, the union said in a statement.
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Unite Here is a founding member of the Change to Win Coalition, a collection of seven unions seeking to focus on organizing workers outside of what they see as institutional, political and financial constraints the AFL-CIO imposes on affiliated unions.
Three other members of the coalition, the Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers, left the AFL-CIO in August. The split came over diverging views of how to rebuild and strengthen the organized labor movement in the US, which has seen dramatic declines in membership and political strength. The leaders of Change to Win want to focus more on bringing new workers into unions, while AFL-CIO leaders wanted to split resources between recruiting and politics.
At the end of the month, Change to Win will hold a founding convention for a new labor federation in St. Louis.
Lane Windham, AFL-CIO spokesperson, said Unite Here made the "wrong decision for their members and for Americaâ€™s working people," the Associated Press reports.
In the statement announcing the decision, John Wilhelm, president of the hotel employeesâ€™ branch of the union, pledged that Unite Here would continue to work with fellow unions regardless of their affiliation.
"Our efforts to make real changes at the AFL-CIO have ended, but our board vote today was done with no ill will towards any member union of the AFL-CIO," Wilhelm said. "UNITE HERE remains committed to working with any union and community organization at local, state, national and international levels."