WASHINGTON — The general executive board of UNITE HERE voted Tuesday to authorize the suspension of its general president, Bruce Raynor, for up to 90 days, pending an investigation and hearing into several charges the union has filed against him.
Raynor was not suspended immediately, according to the board, which said it voted to delegate John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE’s hospitality division, the authority to decide when the suspension will begin. The timing will depend on Raynor’s “degree of cooperation within the next several days on transitional administrative matters.”
Raynor disputed the nature of the vote and denied the charges against him in a phone interview and said he plans to be in his New York office today and continue as UNITE HERE’s general president until his term expires at the end of June.
The possible suspension of Raynor is the latest twist in the power struggle between him and Wilhelm that has landed the dispute over assets in federal court and led to the breakup of the union into two entities, including the formation of a new union, Workers United, which later affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. UNITE HERE was formed in 2004 in a merger of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees and the Hospital Employees & Restaurant Employees International union.
UNITE HERE’s executive board said it voted 32-0 in favor of suspending Raynor, with three abstentions. The board said the suspension stems from Raynor’s “attempts to divide the union, as well as promote SEIU as a competing labor organization within UNITE HERE’s jurisdiction.”
Among the 10 charges filed by the executive board against Raynor were: an attempt by Raynor to manipulate stock holdings in the Amalgamated Bank to dilute the union’s majority interest and force it to lose control of the bank; an effort to change the governing documents of the staff and industry pension funds in order to cause UNITE HERE to cede control over the funds and their assets to a breakaway group that later disaffiliated and formed a separate union; an effort by Raynor to change the union’s governance over ownership of 275 Seventh Avenue in New York to force it to cede control of the building, and similar measures to seize control of the assets. The charges will be reviewed by a newly appointed hearing officer, executive vice president Henry Tamarin.
Raynor said he has no intention of ceding power to the executive board.
“This is nonsense,” he said. “I will go to work tomorrow and conduct my job as I have and they have no authority to suspend me. My term is up at the end of June and that is when I will leave office.”
Raynor was circumspect about what his next step would be, but he acknowledged he “will be a leader in a union,” without disclosing any other details.