Person

Bruce Raynor

Role:

Former Labor Union Official

Bruce Raynor is a labor organizer and union official who worked as the former head of UNITE, Unite Here, and Workers United. He is best known for his involvement in the merger of UNITE and HERE into Unite Here and its later dissolution.

Raynor spent over twenty years organizing textile workers unions in the southern United States. In the mid-90s, he became a leader of the textile workers’ union UNITE, and then with John Wilhelm, Raynor co-led the merger of UNITE with restaurant workers’ union HERE to form Unite Here. The union would erupt in civil war a few years later as Raynor-aligned UNITE legacy unions attempted to break away with the legacy UNITE assets. Raynor eventually led numerous union chapters to form Workers United, which became a part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Raynor resigned from Workers United in 2011 formally due to petty financial misconduct, though observers suspected he was pushed out for political reasons. Since then, Raynor has worked at R and S Associates in New York City.

Early Career

After graduating from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1972, Bruce Raynor joined the education department of Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (later known as the Textile Workers Union of America). Raynor led the organization of tens of thousands of workers into unions across the southern United States. He was eventually elected the leader of a constituent union with 50,000 members. Raynor would remain with the union for 22 years. [1]

Raynor’s best known accomplishment was leading the unionization effort at J.P. Stevens, the second-largest textile manufacturer in the United States. Thousands of employees began organizing in 1963 under Raynor, and over a seventeen-year period, the company fired numerous union activists while the employees led a boycott of J.P. Stevens products. In 1980, after a 17 year battle, J.P. Stevens signed a collective bargaining agreement with the unionized employees. [2]

In 1995, Raynor began climbing the union ranks to higher national levels, starting with his election as executive vice president of the newly-formed Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE), a union for employees in the hotel, restaurant, and gaming industries, and an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. In 1999, he became secretary treasurer, and in 2001 he was elected president. [3]

From 2001 until 2005, Raynor also served vice president of the AFL-CIO. [4]

Unite Here Merger

In 2004, Raynor led the merger of UNITE and the Hotel Employees-Restaurant Employees (HERE) to form Unite Here. HERE was led by former Students for a Democratic Society activist John Wilhelm, who sought support for the union after it ran into financial trouble following declining tourism due to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, UNITE was financially strong, but faced declining membership as textile companies continued to outsource labor abroad. The merger of the two unions proposed to replenish UNITE’s membership and HERE’s finances. [5] However, critics of the merger claimed that the move was initiated by both unions’ leadership with little input from rank-and-file members. [6]

Raynor was elected president of the newly formed Unite Here, while Wilhelm became president of the hospitality division. The union had 400,000 members at its launch. [7]

In 2009, Unite Here would undergo a “vicious,” “ugly” “civil war” between supporters of Raynor and Wilhelm. After tensions built over years between the two sides of the union over strategy disagreements, the struggle was catalyzed by a leadership dispute; Wilhelm was expected to retire to allow Raynor to run the union alone, but under pressure from constituents, Wilhelm instead challenged Raynor for president. [8]

Former UNITE members led by Raynor responded by agitating to dissolve the merger while the HERE members tried to hold the union together. Wilhelm and HERE were financially dependent upon the resources brought by UNITE, particularly the Amalgamated Bank, and they constituted a majority of Unite Here membership. Thus Raynor was accused of being a “dictator,” attempting to tear apart the union against the wishes of the majority of the members, while Wilhelm was accused of attempting to steal UNITE’s resources developed over decades of contributions and dues. [9]

UNITE members boycotted the first post-merger union convention, and at a general board meeting, the UNITE members proposed the merger dissolution. The proposal was voted along lines of the division, and subsequently failed since HERE members held a majority of both rank-and-file membership and leadership. UNITE responded by expelling all HERE board members from the Amalgamated Bank to strengthen its claim over the asset, and sued HERE for violating the merger agreement by reassigning many of the president’s powers to the executive board. [10]

With Raynor expected to lose reelection, he reached out to the Service Employees International Union in a bid to subsume Unite Here under the SEIU. This would delegate most of the control of Unite Here assets to the SEIU and hinder Wilhelm’s impending control over the union. Raynor also reached out to Steve Rosenthal, a former AFL-CIO political director, to run a public relations campaign against Wilhelm through the consulting firm, The Organizing Group. [11][12]

The conflict came to an end when most of the regional bodies of Unite Here, which were primarily composed of former UNITE members, voted to secede from the union and form Workers United as an affiliate of the SEIU. Amalgamated Bank left Unite Here as a part of Workers United. Raynor was elected president of the newly-formed union which presided over 150,000 members. Raynor also became a vice president of the SEIU. [13][14]

Financial Misconduct Allegations

Unite Here

Following Bruce Raynor and Workers United’s break from Unite Here, John Wilhelm accused Raynor of financial misconduct for using Unite Here funds to start a rival union. Raynor had transferred $15 million from Unite Here’s main accounts to the local unions weeks before they split to form Workers United. Obama administration U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara investigated the claims but did not press charges. [15]

Workers United and the Service Employees International Union

In 2011, Raynor resigned as president emeritus of Workers United and as vice president of the Service Employees International Union due to allegations of financial misconduct. Raynor had expensed $2,316.03 for meals to the union. On his expense reports, Raynor had written that he had eaten numerous meals with a male union leader, though it was later discovered that he had been eating with a female union leader. Though the discrepancy was minor, Raynor was technically considered to have committed misconduct. [16]

Defenders of Raynor claimed his expulsion was a result of politics rather than misconduct. Andy Stern, the president of the SEIU and the Raynor ally who orchestrated the escape of Workers United from Unite Here, resigned in 2010. His successor, Mary Kay Henry, had defeated Stern’s ally, Anna Burger, in the presidential election. Once in power, Henry preceded to remove former Stern supporters from key positions in the union. The investigation into Raynor which led to his resignation was seen by some as a targeted attempt by Henry to take down another Stern supporter. [17]

Board Memberships

From 1995 until 2011, Bruce Raynor served as chairman of the board of Amalgamated Life Insurance Company, a union-owned insurance company. [18]

From 1998 through 2012, Raynor served as a member and then chairman of the board of Amalgamated Bank, the only labor-union-owned bank in the United States. [19][20]

From 2005 through 2009, Raynor was a member of the founding leadership council of Change to Win, a labor federation created by Andy Stern and the SEIU to rival the AFL-CIO. [21]

Raynor also chaired the National Retirement Fund pension plan, and he served two terms as co-chair of the Council of Institutional Investors. As of 2021, he sits on the boards of the TransAfrican Forum, and the advisory board for the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations. [22]

Views

Defined Benefit Pension Plans

Bruce Raynor is an outspoken advocate for defined-benefit pension plans, in which employees are given a pension after retirement which is calculated based on numerous factors, usually including seniority. Raynor has argued that defined benefit pension plans are the only viable method to provide for working class people after retirement. [23] However, defined benefit pension plans have been on the decline in the United States for decades due to their onerous cost to employers and perceived unfairness to employees for rewarding non-merit factors. In 1980, there were nearly 150,000 defined pension plans in the US, compared to 56,000 in 1998 (the last year the federal government published data). [24]

Employee Free Choice Act

Raynor has been an outspoken proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which has been repeatedly proposed and rejected in Congress which would make the formation of unions far easier. If passed, employees could gain legal union status if a majority of employees sign a unionization petition, a process known as “card check.” If such a petition passes, the bill would remove the right of employees to challenge union status with an organized ballot. Raynor was criticized and compared to tyrants because he spoke out in support of the bill arguing, “There’s no reason to subject the workers to an election.” [25]

Political Donations

Since 2014, Bruce Raynor has made donations of $1,000 or less to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Catherine Cortez Matso (D-NV), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Congressional candidate Tanya Boone (D-NY), and ate Senator David Carlucci (D-NY). [26]

References

  1. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  2. Salmans, Sandra. “J.P. Stevens: One Year After the Truce.” New York Times. October 18, 2001. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/18/business/jp-stevens-one-year-after-the-truce.html. ^
  3. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  4. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  5. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  6. Johnson, Williams. “The UNITE-HERE Merger: Is It A Step Forward… or Business as Usual?” Labor Notes. April 1, 2004. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.labornotes.org/2004/04/unite-here-merger-it-step-forward-%e2%80%a6-or-business-usual. ^
  7. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  8. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  9. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  10. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  11. Abowd, Paul. “Service Employees Union Joins Move to Break Up UNITE HERE.” Labor Notes. March 20, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://labornotes.org/2009/03/service-employees-union-joins-move-break-unite-here. ^
  12. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  13. Meyerson, Harold. “Disunite There.” The American Prospect. February 27, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://prospect.org/article/disunite/. ^
  14. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  15. Gonzales, Juan. “Watchdog group urges probe of union big Bruce Raynor for $15M funds transfer.” Daily News. April 29, 2010. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/watchdog-group-urges-probe-union-big-bruce-raynor-15m-funds-transfer-article-1.169969. ^
  16. Nathan-Kazis, Josh. “Bruce Raynor, Longtime Garment Union Leader, Quitting Labor Posts.” Forward. April 27, 2011. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://forward.com/news/137293/bruce-raynor-longtime-garment-union-leader-quittin/. ^
  17. Nathan-Kazis, Josh. “Bruce Raynor, Longtime Garment Union Leader, Quitting Labor Posts.” Forward. April 27, 2011. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://forward.com/news/137293/bruce-raynor-longtime-garment-union-leader-quittin/. ^
  18. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  19. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  20. “Bruce Raynor.” LinkedIn. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/bruce-raynor-20963233/. ^
  21. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  22. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  23. “President’s Bio.” Sidney Hillman Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.hillmanfoundation.org/sidney-hillman-foundation/presidents-bio. ^
  24. “Are Defined Benefit Pension Plans Extinct?” Wiser Advisor. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.wiseradvisor.com/article/are-defined-benefit-plans-extinct-351/#:~:text=A%20number%20of%20factors%20have,for%20future%20benefits%20to%20retirees.. ^
  25. Newmayer, Tory; Ackley, Kate. “Truth in Advertising.” Roll Call. June 19, 2007. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.rollcall.com/2007/06/19/truth-in-advertising/. ^
  26. “Donors: Bruce Raynor.” Open Secrets. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?q=bruce+raynor&type=donors. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Sidney Hillman Foundation (Non-profit)
    President
  2. Unite Here (Labor Union)
    Former President
  3. Workers United (Labor Union)
    President Emeritus
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