WASHINGTON — John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE’s hospitality division, rejected an offer Friday by representatives of a breakaway union to enter into a settlement or begin arbitration, following the collapse of a second round of formal mediation talks between the rivals.
It is the latest move in an internal power struggle between Wilhelm and Bruce Raynor, general president of UNITE HERE, that led to the breakup of UNITE HERE into two entities, including the formation of a new union, Workers United, which later affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. (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.)
Following the collapse of mediation on Thursday night, three allied union leaders, including Raynor, Workers United president Edgar Romney and SEIU president Andy Stern, sent a letter to Wilhelm offering two alternatives: a settlement proposal or binding arbitration.
But Wilhelm rejected the trio’s proposals outright, asking “Why start the process over?” in a letter he sent on Friday. “It is absurd to say that, having attempted to hijack UNITE HERE, you will now try to get an arbitrator to award you parts of UNITE HERE membership, jurisdiction and resources, after you rejected” recommendations made by the appointed mediator.
“UNITE HERE would have all the risk in such an arbitration, and SEIU would have no risk at all,” Wilhelm said.
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