By  on May 15, 2009

WASHINGTON — John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE’s hospitality division, suspended general union president Bruce Raynor on Thursday, accusing Raynor of using union funds to help support the breakaway Workers United union.

The suspension order relieves Raynor of all of his “duties, responsibilities and powers” and bars him 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 decision is the latest move in the power struggle between the executives that led to the breakup of UNITE HERE into two entities, including the formation of Workers United, which affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

Raynor, who is to retire at the end of June, challenged the legality of the suspension and said he would continue to serve.

“Since it was clear the merger was over, I have been determined to find an equitable and fair end to the union that was UNITE HERE,” Raynor said. “Wilhelm wants me out of the picture so that he can continue his hostile takeover of the union that garment, textile and other workers built over 100 years. I will continue to protect the interests and legacy of the hard-working men and women in all of our industries.”

Wilhelm accused Raynor of “acting overtly in the interests of SEIU and its secessionist joint boards and against the interests of UNITE HERE. You are spending your time and UNITE HERE’s money traveling around the United States and Canada to encourage employers to deal with Workers United instead of UNITE HERE.”

UNITE HERE’s general executive board voted in April to authorize Wilhelm to suspend Raynor, pending an investigation.

UNITE HERE was founded in 2004 in a merger of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees and the Hospitality Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union.

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