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Bruce Raynor

RAYNOR, BRUCE (1950– ), U.S. labor leader. Raynor was born and raised on Long Island, New York, the son of a truck driver and a department store worker. He joined the labor movement shortly after graduating from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1973, rose to become president of UNITE, the apparel and textile workers union, then became the first president of the organization formed in 2004 by the merger of UNITE and HERE, the hotel and restaurant employees union. Raynor entered Cornell on a scholarship, majoring in biochemistry, but found himself stirred by the Vietnam antiwar and civil rights movements. He gave up his chemistry scholarship and enrolled in Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. After graduation, Raynor joined the education department of the Textile Workers Union, which in a few years would merge with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and became the ACTWU. His first assignment was to help lead a six-month strike at Oneida Knitting Mills. It resulted in the union's first contract with that company. Raynor became anassociate organizing director and soon found himself taking part in a bigger fight, one that had begun in 1963. This was an effort to organize J.P. Stevens, the giant textile company, a struggle dramatized in the 1979 movie Norma Rae. Raynor was said to have been the inspiration for the union organizer portrayed by actor Ron Leibman. In 1980, the ACTWU finally won a contract at Stevens. A year later, Raynor was named Southern Regional Director of the union and in 1993 was appointed executive vice president. He held the same post when the ACTWU and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union merged in 1995 to create UNITE. Three years later, he was named secretary-treasurer of UNITE and in 2001 he became president, succeeding Jay *Mazur. Although many Jewish garment workers had been replaced by other ethnic groups by then, Raynor said, "This is still a Jewish union – in terms of its beliefs and ideals. It views itself as much more than wages and benefits. It's deeply rooted in the traditions of social justice and concern for the least of us. When I say 'Jewish union,' that's what I mean." Raynor had already led an organizing drive that expanded UNITE's membership to include industrial laundry workers. From 5,000 such members in 1998, the number grew to more than 40,000 in 2000. As UNITE's president, Raynor continued to focus on building its membership. At the same time, he helped reform abusive labor practices by overseas contractors of major U.S. brands. Raynor, who was also a vice president of the AFL-CIO, then played a key role in the merger with HERE. At the time of the merger, the combined organization had 440,000 members and an annual operating budget in excess of $60 million.


Women's Wear Daily (Feb. 17, 1998); The Forward (July 20, 2001).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.