Although the organization’s executive board has voted already, the fight over control of the parent organization of the Culinary Local 226 may still be decided in the courts.
Fifteen UNITE HERE vice presidents filed a lawsuit Friday in a New York federal court asking to dissolve the 2004 merger of that brought together UNITE, a union representing the apparel industry, and the larger HERE, the umbrella group that includes the Culinary and represents hotel, restaurant and casino workers.
Their suit accuses the HERE executive leaders of a “breach of the covenants of good faith and fair dealing” with their dealings with the UNITE leaders.
The lawsuit asks that UNITE be released from the merger and that the control of its assets prior to the merger be returned to the union.
The lawsuit was filed before a resolution to split the union was voted down Monday by 62 percent of the organization’s general executive board.
The lawsuit names 38 union leaders as defendants, including John Wilhelm, president of UNITE HERE’s hospitality industry branch, D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary, and Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Culinary union president.
The court filing alleges Wilhelm and his supporters sought the merger with the intention of gaining access to the assets of UNITE, which includes the union-owned Amalgamated Bank.
Edgar Romney, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement the union “is not a collaborative organization built on pooled resources and mutual support” but “a tyranny run by a faction that will seize the assets built up over 100 years by garment and textile workers.”
Bruce Raynor, the president of 400,000-member UNITE HERE who has publicly pushed for the union split, filed an earlier lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn against Wilhelm, Taylor and other leaders.
That lawsuit claims the “Wilhelm faction” is using its majority in the union’s leadership to undercut Raynor’s presidential authority, funnel money to HERE’s coffers and to control the union-owned bank.
Wilhelm said in a statement Tuesday that the lawsuits are part of “Raynor’s attempt to sabotage democracy” and the union’s constitution and “turn the union into his personal property.”
Wilhelm’s statement concluded: “I remain proud that a large majority of our general executive board voted yesterday to remain unified. We will not permit Bruce Raynor to try and destroy our union’s democracy.”