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UC Regents, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
10945 Le Conte Ave, Suite 2107
Los Angeles, CA 90095.
UNITE HERE Local 11
464 South Lucas Avenue, Suite 201
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Biography/History: John Wilhelm was born in Northern Virginia. His career with the labor movement began in the 1960s when he was an undergraduate at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He participated in the food service workers’ labor struggle and went on to work for HERE, the union that represented the workers. From Connecticut, he went to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he helped lead the organizing drive that unionized sixty thousand hospitality workers. Until 2014, John served as president of UNITE HERE International, representing hotel, food service, airport, and gaming workers across North America.
Scope/Content: Interview Contents: Childhood — Exposure to progressive Quaker values through a summer camp and to conservative Quaker values at Earlham College — Transferring to Yale and community organizing in New Haven — Work for the HERE International — Vincent Cerebella’s experiences in HERE Local 217 during the 1940s and 1950s — State of labor relations at Yale in the 1960s and 1970s — 1968 Local 35 strike and ratification vote — Mentorship by Vincent Cerebella — The “organizing projects” idea — Hiring Karl Lechow and Debbie Anderson — Meyer Wolfgang — Organizing clerical and technical workers at Yale in 1971 — Vincent Cerebella’s appointment as director of organization for the International in 1985 — Moving to Las Vegas in 1986 to rebuild the HERE local there — Becoming western regional director — Problems with Local 11’s established leadership in Los Angeles and María Elena Durazo’s election as the local’s president in 1988 — Local 11’s trusteeship and John’s role renegotiating a contract as a result of a reopener clause — Cross-examining Scotty Allen during an arbitration hearing — Karl Lechow’s role in rebuilding Local 11 — City on the Edge video — Role of organizing in contract negotiations and the importance of having a negotiating committee that represents the racial, gender, and occupational diversity of a union — Value of rank-and-file committees — Local 11’s training of organizers and exporting them to other locals around North America — Local 814 trusteeship and confronting Victor Valenzuela at a hearing about the local’s decline — Tom Walsh’s leadership in turning Local 814 around — Local 11’s impact on Los Angeles’s progressive movement — Changing the AFL-CIO’s policy toward undocumented immigrant workers.
Labor unions--California--Los Angeles Labor union locals--California--Los Angeles John Wilhelm UNITE HERE (Organization)