[URBANTH-L]AAA and the strike

Stephen Maack smaack at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 21 13:55:08 EDT 2004

Rob and SUNTA colleagues,
AAA Exec Board is meeting this morning (Thursday) to consider the results of
their survey and how to proceed (or not) in relation to the AAA 2004
conference and the labor/management dispute at the SF Hilton.  AAA Exec
Board only started to ask AAA "members" for their opinions on what to do
about Tuesday, and at first only asked registrants for their opinions
leading to completion of the Exec Board survey.  I hadn't registered yet, am
a NAPA Board member, and a 30 year plus member of AAA so was just a bit
upset over the Exec Board ONLY contacting registrants on a matter of
importance to all AAA (especially given cost implications).  So I am
responsible for working with the Section leaders that I personally know to
get all NAPA, SUNTA, and (indirectly -- through a SCAAN colleague) Society
for Latin American Anthropology members of AAA, as well as SCAAN members
informed of the survey and provided background as I could yesterday.  Since
the AAA Executive Board is meeting now there may be further information
forthcoming soon about their decisions?

Other Sections than SAW and SUNTA are starting to consider or have already
taken their own stances (I'm on the NAPA Board and we are trying to decide
if we will have a conference call on the matter tomorrow).  NAPA Board
members were sent this today from the Society for Medical Anthropology, that
came to the following stance after a reportedly lively discussion:

"The view of the Executive Board of the Society for Medical Anthropology is
that for financial reasons the AAA should not cancel its contract with the
Hilton. Also for this reason, and due of the logistical problems involved,
the Board does not support the transfer of the meetings to San Jose.

Many members are reluctant to cross a picket line, and many will not.
Consequently, we are in the process of making off-site arrangements for
various Society meetings and functions.  We encourage other sections to
consider doing the same thing.  We further encourage members who are so
interested and motivated to view this as an opportunity to engage in
creative and productive public action.  Our sentiment was captured well by
Board member Vincanne Adams:

'My suggestion to [the Board is], as others have suggested, that we honor
the strike while using the hotel in various ways:  by helping to carry
placards, making publicity over their cause, maybe devoting a public session
for them to air their views within the conference, asking ethnographers to
document their efforts, and such.  One might view this as a postmodern
predicament in which old revolutionary tactics of simple worker protest are
not the most effective, and in which using the media and our strengths as a
discipline to help the cause in innovative and media saavy, as well as
anti-intuitive, ways might be more productive of a useful and supportive
outcome.  However, one might read this suggestion, following Jameson, as an
unmappable mystification (and cooptation) of late capitalism.  It may be
that the strike will be resolved by that date anyway, but I think it would
be a huge loss to cancel the meeting.' "

While I respect all the different opinions expressed, and the SMA stance, I
personally disagree with it.  Although it would be very messy, might not be
feasible, and could be divisive of AAA, I personally floated by the NAPA
Board a sequence of AAA actions that could let individual sections and
session organizers move their conference activities to San Jose, and let
those who wanted to continue at SF Hilton do their thing there.  In other
words, I say that we should vote with our feet as sections and
individuals -- and we might as well coordinate this jointly through AAA to
get better price deals.  A lot of people (including me) will not cross
picket lines -- and no way is the union going to go in to the hotel they are
picketing to be present at an AAA meeting "public session"!!  If AAA 2004 is
only held at the SF Hilton, I will not be there for any meetings inside that
hotel, if the lockout or a strike is still in place -- and that is despite
my NAPA Board responsibilities.

The potential cost to AAA of cancelling is $1.3 million, but various
factors -- including litigation potential (from either side), negotiated
settlements, Hilton renting rooms to others, Hilton loss of potential AAA
conference business later, Hilton bad press, etc., could bring the actual
cost to AAA of cancelling much lower than that.  Lawyers are for working
through such problems.  Even $1.3 million, while it sounds like a lot, would
be an exposure of about $118 for each of the roughly 11,000 AAA members --
which could be covered in several ways, including four of five years of
membership fee increases, donation requests, etc.  To put the amount in
perspective, ONE night in a single at the SF Hilton costs $159 (plus taxes
and fees), at AAA 2004 conference rates.  So we are talking less than one
hotel night exposure per AAA member.  There are additional implications for
people who might have non-refundable airfare or airfare/hotel arrangements
set up -- but the actual individual exposure there may be less than many
people seem to assume, since for about $100 or less one can often reschedule
even non-refundable flights, and it is often possible to cancel hotel rooms
up to 24 or 48 hours ahead of time at little or not cost.  So I actually
think the financial implications, while real and they need to be considered,
are a bit of a red herring, and that the financial exposure could be handled
by most individual anthropologists and by the Association if it chose to
take a principled stance supporting the union (or opposing the whole
situation) and cancelled.

For background on the lockout itself (previously a strike) here are a set of
links that I compiled yesterday from various sources (I haven't looked for
October 20 or 21 SF Chronicle articles yet):

October 19 SF Chronicle article on relation of African-Americans and
immigrant workers to this labor dispute:


earlier SF Chronicle article from last Friday (n.b., I live in LA that went
through a long grocery workers strike last year and has had its own hotel
workers picketing -- I have no inside info but my gut so no quick resolution
of this labor/management dispute -- also see link to article above from
October 19)

Hotel talks resume -- sides soften stances
- George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2004

Negotiations resumed Thursday evening in the bitter San Francisco hotel
workers' labor dispute, with employers promising to sweeten an earlier
proposal on wages, benefits and health care and the union proposing that
locked-out employees return to work with a pledge not to strike.

Details of the hotels' proposal were not made public, pending their
discussion in negotiations at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. However, the
union, Local 2 of Unite Here, said just prior to the bargaining session that
it would agree to a 90-day cooling off period (until Jan. 15) and not strike
if the hotel operators would agree not to lock out workers during the

The hotel managers did not respond immediately Thursday to Local 2 President
Mike Casey's proposal, but a spokesman, Cornell Fowler, was skeptical. "The
quickest way to end this is to get in there and negotiate, and that is what
we are looking forward to doing,'' he said before the session, which was
joined by a federal mediator.

Referring to 4,000 locked-out union hotel workers in San Francisco, Casey
said: "This fight is about our livelihoods. Our top demand and our continued
insistence is we be reinstated.''

On Sept. 29, Local 2 walked out on strike at four of 14 hotels in the
bargaining group. The union said it would be a two-week strike, ending last
Wednesday. The four hotels are the Argent Hotel, Crowne Plaza, Hilton San
Francisco and Intercontinental Mark Hopkins.

In response, on Oct. 1, the hotel owners locked out union workers at the
remaining 10 hotels in the group, known as the San Francisco Multi-Employer
Group. These are the Fairmont, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, Holiday Inn Civic
Center, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fisherman's Wharf, Holiday Inn at
Fisherman's Wharf, Palace, Hyatt Regency, Omni and Westin St. Francis.

On Wednesday, the 1,400 workers ended their strike, but their employers at
the first four hotels then locked them out just as the other 10 hotels had
done to their 2,600 workers.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is opposed to the lockout and this week
asked the two disparate sides to agree to a cooling-off period, during which
the workers would return to work while a contract is negotiated. The union
was willing to return under those terms, but the hotels attached a
condition: They wanted the union to remove from the negotiating table its
desire to have a contract that either expires or can be reopened in 2006.
The union refused, and the notion of the cooling-off period appeared dead,
until revived by Casey on Thursday.

In the original employers' proposal on health care, workers would pay $32.
53 per month on a premium in the first year of a five-year contract,
increasing to $273.42 per month in the fifth year. That compares with $10
per month Local 2 workers have paid for years.

The hotels, which before the strike and lockout were paying $630 per month
per employee for health care, would pay $683.30 per employee per month in
the first year, rising to $951.36 per employee per month in the fifth year,
in the original proposal.

E-mail George Raine at graine at sfchronicle.com

Page B - 4

Articles going back in time (originally sent around by Robert Rotenberg to
the urbanth-l list):




Best Regards,
Steve Maack

Dr. Stephen C. Maack
Founder and Lead Consultant
dba REAP Change Consultants
2872 Nicada Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90077-2024
smaack at earthlink.net
telephone (310) 384-9717
FAX (310) 474-4161
web site at http://www.reapchange.com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
> [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu]On Behalf Of Robert T. O'Brien
> Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2004 11:21 AM
> To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
> Subject: [URBANTH-L]AAA and the strike
> Dear Colleagues:
> I'm writing to ask what people know about AAA and the SF
> UNITE HERE strike (now a lockout).
> I've seen many letters to the AAA Exec Board and to section
> groups calling to move the conference. The SCA has called on
> the Exec Board to move it. SAW is formulating a response now.
> Anyone else know what's going on within the AAA?
> Best,
> Rob O'Brien
>  ********************************************
> Robert T. O'Brien
> Ph.D. Candidate
> Department of Anthropology
> Temple University
> robrien at temple.edu
> 215-803-5181
> "We're changing the world,...freedom is the Almighty's gift to
> every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on
> the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread
> of freedom." GWB on
> why God loves an imperialist
> "...a really diverse crowd here tonight. The haves, and the
> have-mores. Some people call you elite. I call you my base." GWB
> at the Al Smith fundraiser, October 19, 2000
> ********************************************
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