WASHINGTON — Bruce Raynor, general president of UNITE HERE plans to go before a federal judge as early as today to ask for an injunction against John Wilhelm, president of the hospitality division, who staged a predawn entry into the union’s Manhattan headquarters on Friday.
It is the latest move in an internal power struggle between Wilhelm and Raynor that led to the breakup of UNITE HERE into two entities and tied up millions of dollars worth of assets in federal court. (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.)
Wilhelm entered the union’s headquarters located at 275 Seventh Avenue, which and houses Raynor’s offices and approximately 100 union officials, at 4:00 a.m. Friday morning. That’s where the consensus about the events ends. Raynor alleges that Wilhelm’s group illegally and forcibly entered the building without a court order, took over the offices, seized assets, implanted security guards, changed the locks in different rooms and took documents and records.
Raynor said he has also been denied access to his offices at “various times” since the Friday action.
“It is illegal. I am still president of this union,” said Raynor. “These were thuggish tactics.…This is a brand of unionism unknown in our union and in our history. We will go before a federal judge and we will prevail in a lawful way.”
Wilhelm, with the backing of the union’s general executive board, suspended Raynor on May 14, accusing him of using union funds to help support the breakaway Workers United union. But Raynor has challenged the legality of the suspension and said it is not allowed under the union’s constitution. He has said he will serve out his term, which expires at the end of June.
A spokeswoman for Wilhelm said the group entered their own headquarters building on Friday morning based on signed affidavits they received from employees working there, “demonstrating destruction of union records and theft of union records,” activities they claimed have escalated.
The spokeswoman also alleged that the breakaway union, Workers United, used a “Defense Department-grade program to scrub UNITE HERE computers” of their records. “We are doing everything we can to prevent further destruction to records and property,” the spokeswoman said.
She said security officers will be posted to prevent the further alleged destruction of records.