By  on March 6, 2009

WASHINGTON — Fifteen local chapters of UNITE HERE have set a vote for Saturday on whether to disaffiliate from the parent union.

The move is the latest development in a struggle for control of the organization between executives of the two predecessor unions — the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees and the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International — that merged to form UNITE HERE in 2004.

More than 1,000 joint board members, representing about 150,000 union workers, are expected to be voting throughout the day in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Newark, according to supporters of the dissolution of the merger led by general president Bruce Raynor.

John Wilhelm, president of the hospitality division of UNITE HERE who led HERE prior to the merger, is opposed to the dissolution. Wilhelm’s faction represents the majority in the dispute. At a general executive board meeting last month, 39 members voted with Wilhelm against undoing the merger, with 25 board members voting in favor.

On Thursday, Raynor called the disaffiliation action “historic and unprecedented” and said it indicated “just how serious and deep the rift in our union is.”

A spokeswoman for Wilhelm declined comment.

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