Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Friday, July 12, 2024 86° Today's Paper


Top News

Unite Here elects its 1st female president in 130-year history

REUTERS/BING GUAN / 2021
                                Striking UNITE HERE Local 11 union members and airport food workers protest a labor dispute with airport concessions company HMS Host, which employs almost 700 workers at Los Angeles International Airport restaurants and the American Airlines Admirals Club and American Eagle lounges, at Los Angeles International Airport, Calif.
1/1
Swipe or click to see more

REUTERS/BING GUAN / 2021

Striking UNITE HERE Local 11 union members and airport food workers protest a labor dispute with airport concessions company HMS Host, which employs almost 700 workers at Los Angeles International Airport restaurants and the American Airlines Admirals Club and American Eagle lounges, at Los Angeles International Airport, Calif.

NEW YORK >> Labor union Unite Here on Thursday elected its first female president in its 130-year history, as 2024 shapes up to be an important year for the union representing 275,000 workers, a majority of whom are women, across the United States and Canada.

Gwen Mills was elected president uncontested to a five-year term by roughly 1,000 union delegates from 45 local chapters of workers across industries including hospitality, gaming and transportation.

Mills told Reuters her number one focus as president was to expand the union, especially in Canada where there are upwards of two million non-union hospitality workers.

“With the growth in the hospitality sector – and it is largely non-union – our goal is to increase the number of people that have a union and can fight for and win the union standard that we’re so proud of,” she said.

Mills has been serving as the union’s interim president and was secretary-treasurer from 2017 to 2024.

She first joined the union 25 years ago in New Haven, Connecticut, as a community organizer.

Local chapters of Unite Here were instrumental in securing record contracts for hospitality workers in 2023, including in Las Vegas where a tight labor market allowed employees to flex more bargaining power.

The union is currently focused on negotiating new contracts for 40,000 hotel workers with contracts set to expire by the end of August across 20 major cities.

Stakes are high for the union this year, given the 2024 presidential election, said Mills. Depending on the outcome of the election, she expressed concerns about the potential impact on the National Labor Relations Board and union-organizing, as well as fears of political attacks on women, immigrants and people of color who make up a majority of the union’s members.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.