By  on September 15, 2005

NEW YORK — The executive board of UNITE HERE, the labor union representing textile and apparel workers, has unanimously voted to sever ties with the AFL-CIO.

"The direction the AFL-CIO took at the convention in Chicago convinced us we could no longer move forward together," Bruce Raynor, general president, said during a conference call on Wednesday to formally announce the split.

UNITE, along with the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union and United Food and Commercial Workers, stormed out of the AFL-CIO's convention in Chicago in July after failing to find common ground on how union resources and funding were being used to serve American workers. Before the split, unions such as UNITE HERE and the Teamsters accused the AFL-CIO of devoting the majority of its resources to funding political candidates in key areas rather than focusing on growing the labor movement.

Despite boycotting the remaining proceedings and withdrawing its leaders from running for the AFL-CIO's executive council, UNITE HERE did not immediately withdraw from the organization.

However, Raynor said after two years of debate it was clear that the time had come to take a different direction to ensure that union resources are devoted to growing membership.

John Wilhelm, president of Unite's hospitality industries, stressed that there was no animosity behind the the split. "We believe it's our responsibility to work with all interested unions," Wilhelm said.

UNITE HERE has some 450,000 active members and 400,000 retirees throughout North America. Raynor said a focus on organizing workers has resulted in a marked rise in the number of workers who have joined the union over the last year. Raynor and Wilhelm intend to provide a report on the rising membership in a review at year's end.

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