Leaders of UNITE-HERE — the name of the new union — have argued that the labor movement must follow its example and strengthen itself by consolidating and organizing, or else face extinction. As part of an entity called the New Unity Partnership, UNITE-HERE has formed a challenge to Sweeney and has threatened to abandon the AFL-CIO absent sweeping reforms. Under the leadership of Doug McCarron, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners already left the AFL-CIO three years ago.
The new militant approach to reform and organizing comes in large part on behalf of low wage, unskilled and semi-skilled immigrant workers. There are critics, some of whom argue that UNITE-HERE and the Service Employees International Union are attempting to impose an undemocratic, top-down system that diminishes the role of local labor councils, the cornerstone of the United Food and Commercial Workers and other more traditional organizations. Some critics have argued that cultural differences separate the new, more militant immigrant-based labor force from trade unions, which are fighting (like UFCW) to protect a middle-class lifestyle.
But Durazo, of HERE Local 11, said her members also aspire to middle-class status. As other jobs are outsourced, she said, hotels are among the few places that can’t be sent overseas. A visitor to Los Angeles will have to have his or her bed made, room cleaned and linens washed by a person living and working in Los Angeles.
“Factory jobs are sent overseas,” Durazo said. “What other jobs are there that can’t be sent away? We have to join together, the same way the hotels have joined together, to negotiate with these nationwide chains. Otherwise we don’t have a chance to make these jobs middle-class jobs.”