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Unite Here Rejoins AFL-CIO After Four-Year Absence

By Joe Napsha, The Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 17, 2009--Unite Here, a union representing hotel and restaurant workers as well as textile workers, returned to the AFL-CIO fold today, on the first full day of Richard Trumka's presidency of the nation's largest labor federation.

United Here, which has 265,000 members, rejoined the AFL-CIO on the final day of its convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. It, along with five other national unions, left the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form the Change to Win federation as a result of disputes with AFL-CIO leadership and the direction of the labor movement.

The return to the AFL-CIO comes on the heels of a division within Unite Here, in which about 20,000 members of United Here broke away to form Workers United and affiliate with the SEIU, which remains in the Change to Win federation. That split resulted from differences in organization, tactics and resource distribution.

About 2,100 hotel, restaurant, hospitality and textile workers in Western Pennsylvania voted in March to split from Unite Here and form Workers United.

Underscoring the importance of unity within the labor movement at a crucial time when labor seeks to gain reforms in health care and labor law, Trumka presented a charter to Unite Here president John W. Wilhelm.

"A united labor movement will serve the interests of working people during this time of incredible opportunity," Trumka said.

"Solidarity will always overcome division and our union will continue to be a strong and growing member in the house of labor," said John W. Wilhelm, president of Unite Here.

Trumka has said he will continue to lead conversations with other unions about rejoining the AFL-CIO.

Joe Napsha can be reached via e-mail or at 724-836-5252.

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Copyright (c) 2009, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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