NEW YORK – Noel Beasley, who, as Midwest director for what is now Workers United led successful campaigns to save HartMarx clothing jobs in Illinois and Hugo Boss jobs in Cleveland, was elected new president of Workers United, an SEIU sector, the union said. The Workers United board put him in office at a May 10 special session.

Beasley succeeds Bruce Raynor, Workers United’s founder. SEIU’s board forced Raynor to resign over expense account problems.

Papers that Raynor’s former union, Unite Here, turned over to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York accuse him of illegal transfers from the union-owned Amalgamated Bank of New York to locals loyal to him, before Unite Here split and Workers United left for SEIU.

After Raynor and 150,000 members left, the remaining 260,000 Unite Here members, led by President John Wilhelm, rejoined the AFL-CIO.

Beasley, accepting the Workers United presidency, has a very different agenda. Building upon his 35 years with the union, including the last 25 as Midwest director based in Chicago, Beasley plans to concentrate on developing workplace leaders and field staff, education and mobilization.

“This is an extremely difficult period of transition for the global trade union movement and the problems our union must confront are complicated. These problems are in many ways reflections of the hard times that now assault our members, their families and communities,” Beasley said in a statement released by SEIU. “We must move from defense to offense. We must reclaim North America for working families and stop the attempts to roll back virtually every hard-fought victory of the 20th century.

“If we can save jobs in the Rust Belt, we can do it everywhere,” he said, citing the Hugo Boss and HartMarx campaigns. The Hugo Boss drive used massive publicity and political support to save 400 jobs at the last clothing plant in Cleveland, when the firm wanted to close it and shift the work to low-paid workers in Turkey and Eastern Europe.

Sit-ins and demonstrations led banks to restructure loans to HartMarx, saving 3,500 jobs at the large mens’ clothing manufacturer. Most of them were in suburban Chicago and in Rock Island, Ill.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.