Bruce S. Raynor

Bruce S. Raynor is the General President of the labor union UNITE HERE, a founding member of the Leadership Council of the Change to Win Federation (CTW), and a member of the Cornell University Board of Trustees.

Union Organizer

Radicalized through student activism and the civil rights movement, Raynor began his work in the labor movement in 1973 in the education department of the former Textile Workers Union of America. He played a major role in the multi-year-long campaign to organize the Southern textile company J.P. Stevens, which was dramatized in the 1979 film Norma Rae. This was a comprehensive campaign that was innovative in its use of community- and church-based organizing.

Raynor is a graduate of the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations (class of '72) where he gave up a biochemistry scholarship to pursue a career in the labor movement. [Kennedy, Randy. "Unlikely Mediator in Strike at the Modern," New York Times. September 13, 2000.] He joins the ranks of other prominent labor leaders who have graduated from Ivy League colleges: notably, John Wilhelm of UNITE HERE (Yale University) and Andy Stern of SEIU (University of Pennsylvania). The three leaders share an outspoken commitment to large-scale union organizing and were largely responsible for CTW's split from the AFL-CIO in 2005.

According to the Department of Labor, Raynor's total 2005 earnings from UNITE HERE were $248,412. According to Union Facts (via the Department of Labor), Raynor's total 2006 earnings were $253,992.cite web | author=Center for Union Facts | year=2006 | title=UNITE HERE: Officers & Employees | url= | work= [ Center for Union Facts] | accessdate=20 September | accessyear=2007]


Raynor's father worked as a truck driver and laborer; he died of a heart attack at age 48. [Kennedy, Randy. "Unlikely Mediator in Strike at the Modern," New York Times. September 13, 2000.] Raynor's mother worked in retail. [Kempner, Matt. "A tale of two union men Historic split in labor movement pits friends who have fought side by side," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 29, 2005.]

Raynor's older brother, Harris Raynor, also graduated from Cornell (class of '69) and is the southern regional director and an international vice president of UNITE HERE.

Raynor is twice divorced [Kennedy, Randy. "Unlikely Mediator in Strike at the Modern," New York Times. September 13, 2000.] and lives in Nyack, New York with his wife Joan. They have five children.


Raynor has been criticized by opponents of the CTW split for wanting to merge the myriad existing unions of the AFL-CIO into a dozen unions organized by industry.

Raynor has also been criticized by the corporate-funded anti-union group the Center for Union Facts for his support of card check as the best way to win union recognition (vs. NLRB elections).


on his background (2001):

I was born on Long Island, N.Y. I went to Cornell University on a biochemistry scholarship that I won from General Foods Corp. It was a four-year scholarship. But after my first year, I transferred to the school of labor relations. I was impacted by the civil rights movement and the students rights movement. I joined SDS [ Students for a Democratic Society ] . I felt that unions could help the powerless. . . . My parents were OK with it, even though they were apolitical Democratics.

I graduated in 1972 and became a union organizer for the textile workers union. I went south and worked there, organizing people at J.P. Stevens, which was the campaign on which the movie "Norma Rae" was based. I was in the South 20 years and later became director of the southern region. I've spent almost my entire adult life in the union movement. [Lewis, Diane. "IN SEARCH OF MEMBERS DESPITE THE DECLINE OF ORGANIZED LABOR, NEW PRESIDENT OF UNITE REMAINS UNDAUNTED," Boston Globe. July 29, 2001.]

on recruiting organizers (2001):

Clearly, we are hiring young idealistic kids out of college as organizers, particularly out of the antisweatshop movements that have sprung up on college campuses. [Lewis, Diane. "IN SEARCH OF MEMBERS DESPITE THE DECLINE OF ORGANIZED LABOR, NEW PRESIDENT OF UNITE REMAINS UNDAUNTED," Boston Globe. July 29, 2001.]

on electoral politics (2001):

In the past, we have been too close to the Democratic Party. We will move away and support only candidates who are in the best interest of our members. We will oppose vigorously all those who have opposed us. We will make no decisions based on political party but will support those who have helped us in the past and continue to help us now. [Lewis, Diane. "IN SEARCH OF MEMBERS DESPITE THE DECLINE OF ORGANIZED LABOR, NEW PRESIDENT OF UNITE REMAINS UNDAUNTED," Boston Globe. July 29, 2001.]

on the future of the labor movement (2001):

We are at a great moment in our history. I am convinced that there will always be a movement. As long as some business leaders are driven by self-interest, they will make sure that the union movement is alive and well. As imperfect as unions are, they are the only way power can be distributed. [Lewis, Diane. "IN SEARCH OF MEMBERS DESPITE THE DECLINE OF ORGANIZED LABOR, NEW PRESIDENT OF UNITE REMAINS UNDAUNTED," Boston Globe. July 29, 2001.]

on organizing in the South (1998):

In the South there's a myth. And the myth is that Southern workers are not receptive to unions. I've never found that Southern workers are not receptive to unions. Southern workers know they are not being treated well and they know their wages and benefits are below what they ought to be, they know they are cast aside when no longer needed. They don't need anyone to tell them that. Companies in the South have always felt like they could do whatever it took to defeat union organization. So when workers try to organize in the South, they have to overcome threats of plant closings and pressure by management. They have to overcome ---probably more so in the South than anywhere else ---the ability of ployers to divide workers on race. Southern employers, traditionally in a work force that's mixed, make race an issue. They tell the workers that the union is for the black workers and try to separate the white workers. I've never seen a hard-fought campaign in the South where employers didn't use that issue to divide workers. You've got to make them understand that it isn't about who they're friends with or the color of somebody's skin, but it's about what everybody's common interests are. The boss may be white, but that doesn't do some white worker who's making seven bucks an hour any good. [Poole, Sheila. "Q & A Union leader sees Southern opportunity," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 25, 1998.]

on union busting in the South (1998):

In the South, you see politicians and communities used against workers. That puts extra pressure on people. We just had an organizing campaign in South Carolina a few months ago where a local furniture company called up workers and said if you vote for the union we're going to have to come and get your furniture because there will probably be a strike and you won't be able to make your payments. Now, that wouldn't have happened in others parts of the country. That's a Southern phenomenon....

They successfully scared the workers. They threatened them. They mobilized the entire community. Since Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, corporations don't have the same fear of unions to keep them in line, so they don't feel they have to treat workers well. There was an old model of keeping unions out ---the IBM model. Treat workers really well, have a great place to work and they won't need a union. Well, that model went out the window. Now it's: "I can treat them anyway I want and there's no threat anymore." That's how the work place has changed. The No. 1 problem facing workers today is income inequality. The jobs being created are the lower-paying jobs and the jobs being eliminated are the higher paying jobs. There's a feeling like it's open season (on workers). I had a company tell me today that: "Of course, we care about our people. They're our most important asset." Then why are you closing a plant and moving production offshore? "Well, economics is economics." [Poole, Sheila. "Q & A Union leader sees Southern opportunity," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 25, 1998.]

on being a union organizer in the South (2000):

If someone asks you in a plane or a grocery store or a restaurant, 'What do you do?' and you tell them you're with a union, it ends the conversation. It's like saying, 'I'm a mass murderer. I kill people for a living.' [Kennedy, Randy. "Unlikely Mediator in Strike at the Modern," New York Times. September 13, 2000.]

on organizing service workers (2006):

Our goal is to move service-sector workers into the middle class. 'The manufacturing unions did that for factory workers. It took them 20 years to do that, and we hope to do the same thing. [Greenhouse, Steven. "Unions Focus Attention on Workers in Service Industries," New York Times. June 16, 2006.]

External links

UNITE HERE biography


Raynor, Bruce. "Losing By Winning," American Prospect. December 21, 2006.


Bernstein, Aaron. "Labor's New Organization Man," Business Week. April 7, 2003.



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