NEW YORK — At the union’s Las Vegas convention last week, members decided that Unite’s name will no longer be an acronym.
But don’t ask Bruce Raynor if that means Unite no longer stands for anything.
“Unite stands for fighting for fair wages and benefits for lower-paid workers in our society,” said the newly reelected president, who ran unopposed. “Unite stands for protecting workers from corporations and corporate decisions that negatively impact the lives of working people. Unite stands for having a domestic manufacturing base, which is good for America, good for American workers and good for American communities.”
The decision to change the name, which formerly had stood for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees, reflected the reality that today only about half the union’s 250,000 members are employed in traditional apparel and fabric manufacturing jobs.
“You don’t think of Liz Claiborne distribution workers as needletrades,” Raynor said. “They’re warehouse workers. And laundry workers, while they work with textiles, don’t really think of themselves as textile workers. By having a name that’s inclusive, we avoid that issue.”
The union was created in July 1995 through the merger of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union. For much of its eight-year history, the new union has been aggressively recruiting workers at industrial laundries and in retail distribution operations.
Raynor said the approximately 2,200 delegates attending the convention voted to aggressively step up organizing efforts and added that Unite plans to devote about half its $40 million budget to organizing.
“We want to recruit 100,000 members in the next four years,” he said.
The union had recruited about 56,000 new members since its last convention in 1999.
“The growth will clearly be in retail and distribution and I know you’ll see continued growth in laundries,” he said. “But we are also not ignoring the parts of apparel and textile manufacturing that we feel will survive.”
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