In what appears to be a strange marriage, the IAM and the NUHW have ” signed a letter of intent concerning a potential affiliation” according to a press release Tuesday. The press release goes on to say that both sides still need to iron out the details, but one can presume that if they are at the issuing press release stage, this marriage is probably going to happen.
So, what exactly do nurses and machinists have in common? What does it matter? Union mergers today are less about whether the two sides’ members actually are the right fit than if each can bring something to the table that the other doesn’t have. The classic example of this: the UNITE-HERE merger. UNITE had tons of money, but no members. HERE had lots of bodies, but no money. So, they merged. Of course, as we all know, it turned out to be an absolute disaster. The Presidents of the respective unions — Bruce Raynor and John Wilhlem — hated each other by the end of it and filed so many lawsuits, injunctions, charges before the Labor Board, etc., that even the most dedicated labor watcher would lose track of it all.
It appears that the IAM and NUHW are merging for the same reason. The Machinists have money, the NUHW has a good membership base (remember that NUHW was itself born of the divorce between Andy Stern and Sal Roselli). It remains to be seen whether the IAM-NUHW merger is any more successful than the UNITE-HERE merger, but the UNITE-HERE merger is a cautionary tale, particularly when the presidents of the unions have especially strong personalities.