By  on July 10, 2009

WASHINGTON — The National Labor Relations Board ruled the insurgent Workers United is the bargaining agent in contracts with five employers that filed petitions seeking to resolve the union’s dispute with UNITE HERE over representing thousands of workers.

The government action is one phase in the broader dispute between the two unions, which have been embroiled in a power struggle since Bruce Raynor, former general president of UNITE HERE, led the move to break up that union and helped form Workers United, of which he is now the president.

The power struggle between Raynor and John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE, has tied up millions of dollars’ worth of union assets in federal court and generated a battle over who represents the majority of Workers United’s 150,000 members.

NLRB regional directors handed down five separate decisions that Workers United made public on Thursday. The NLRB dismissed the petitions of the five employers, covering more than 675 workers. The employers were seeking a new NLRB-supervised election because there were competing claims of representation.

The employers were: Continental Linen Services in Kalamazoo, Mich.; Premair of Cleveland, employing fast food attendants, cooks and servers; Gateway Packaging Co., Kansas City, Mo.; Associated Hotels Duluth, doing business as Radisson Hotel Duluth (Minn.), and American Etc. Inc., doing business as Royal Laundry in San Francisco. Employers have 14 days to appeal the decision and American Etc. has already.

A Workers United spokesman said there are another 13 petitions pending before the NLRB by employers seeking direction on resolving competing claims of representation between UNITE HERE and Workers United.

“The unbroken consensus among all five [NLRB] regional directors who have ruled on this issue is a big victory for many of our members who are seeking to regain representation,” said Raynor. “The NLRB decisions, which would help settle dozens of competing claims of representation between our two unions across the country, affirm a worker’s right to freely choose his or her union. They discredit UNITE HERE’s interference strategies and its attempts to get Workers United members’ dues.”

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