By  on May 29, 2009

NEW YORK — Bruce Raynor has severed his ties with UNITE HERE and will join breakaway union Workers United in a leadership role.

Raynor released a statement to UNITE HERE union members on Friday tendering his resignation as general president. John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE’s hospitality division, suspended Raynor on May 14, accusing him of using union funds to help support Workers United. As part of that suspension Raynor was relieved of all his “duties, responsibilities and powers” and barred from his New York offices except to return property or on visits approved by Wilhelm. The suspension with pay was approved for as much as 90 days.

“The situation had deteriorated to the point where I no longer feel I am effectively serving working people as the general president of UNITE HERE,” said Raynor.

He went on to assert that Wilhelm-loyal UNITE HERE staff and “nearly a dozen nonunion security officers broke into my office and stole many of my files, including personal files.” This was said to have occurred at 4 a.m. on May 22.

“This sort of behavior is outlandish and heartbreaking,” said Raynor. “I simply refuse to be party to it anymore,” adding that it was the lowest point in his 36-year career.

Raynor has held his post since the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees, or UNITE, and the Hospitality Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union, or HERE, merged in 2004. Disputes over how union finances have been handled have led to lawsuits and the breakup of UNITE HERE into two entities, including the formation of Workers United, which has affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

In an interview, Raynor said that over the past several weeks he had been focused on finding a way for an amicable split between UNITE and HERE.

“I stayed as president for one reason and that was to attempt to bring about a peaceful separation, a divorce,” he said. “I concluded with the events of last week, when they broke into the offices….I decided this was pointless.”

Workers United will begin operating out of an office on 15th Street in Manhattan today and Raynor said his official role with Workers United will be decided by its executive board within the next few days.

Wilhelm welcomed the news of Raynor’s departure.

“It is good news for all of UNITE HERE that Bruce Raynor has resigned from the union one day ahead of his internal union trial for promoting the breakup of the very union he was sworn to defend,” said Wilhelm.

He also indicated a turf battle for union workers is taking shape.

“We are under no illusion that SEIU and Raynor have given up their quest to steal UNITE HERE’s hotel, gaming and food service jurisdictions,” said Wilhelm. “Indeed, Raynor’s resignation letter makes clear that he intends to continue his fight and he will do so under Andy Stern’s control inside SEIU.”

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