Unite Here aims to grow union membership among low wage workers

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BOSTON - Delegates from all over the country, representing some 270,000 Unite Here members, are converging on this city June 25-27 for the union's constitutional convention.

The mood among the delegates is upbeat with many celebrating recent organizing victories and others talking about things like their long range vision of an America where the income gap has been drastically narrowed.

Unite Here includes in its ranks a wide range of workers with people in the hotel, gaming, food service and even manufacturing sectors of the economy among those gathering here this week.

In opening speeches today, leaders of the union have emphasized the theme that the poor economic recovery makes it more urgent than ever that the union bring in more members. Joining a union is the only way to boost pay and thereby stimulate economic growth, they say.

To this end the convention has adopted "Changing 50,000 More Lives" as its theme. A resolution to organize 50,000 more workers in the next five years has been put on the agenda for discussion and adoption by the delegates.

No one here is shy about mentioning organizing successes the union has already had. Some of those delegates, for example, are among the 5,000 workers in the food service industry who have unionized with Unite Here in the last year alone.

"Since we won our first contract this year I now make over $16 an hour and can afford healthcare for my young daughter and my husband," said Tatiana Lam, who is among those 5,000. She works at Einstein Bros. Bagels at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, California.

Delegates at the convention will also elect new officers. Current President D. Taylor will stand for a full five year term after taking over the leadership of the union in 2013. "At a time when so much attention is rightfully being paid to the declining living standards of American workers, the Unite Here family knows the surest way to change lives for the better is to organize workers into unions," said Taylor.

Delegates will also hear from speakers including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will also speak.

Photo: UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston says "The Time Is Now" for immigration reform. Facebook page.

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