[URBANTH-L]Further Responses on the Strike

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Fri Oct 22 11:53:42 EDT 2004

[Editor's Note: The first of four message, x-posted from SEA, offers
feedback from a Hilton union representative.  It seems that discussions
similar to ours are taking place on several
anthropology listservs.  For SUNTA members, I see this debate as an
opportunity to reflect on the economy that the AAA is supporting by holding
its meetings in a chain luxury hotel. The physical environment of the Hilton
offers a sharp contrast to the often impoverished downtown areas in which
they are located.  What alternatives are there to this arrangement?  Might
we wish to hold our meetings on university campuses in the future, for
example? -AJ]

From: "Jeff Cohen" <jcohen at psu.edu>
Sent: Friday, October 22, 2004 8:40 AM

----Original Message-----
From: Paul Durrenburger [mailto:epd2 at psu.edu]
Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2004 10:10 AM
To: Judith Marti
Subject: Re: FW: AAA Annual Meeting and SF Hilton Hotel Labor Dispute

Judith and SEA colleagues,

I talked with a representative of HERE in Washington this morning. He says
they have been reaching out to AAA since August, that AAA has not been
responsive. Here are some things to think about...

> >First. AAA is involved in a long term relationship with the Hilton
Hotels. AAA plans meetings years in advance. The Hilton Hotel Chain will not
> >that long-term relationship over one contract for one year in one city.
> >So the talk of a million dollar liability is a threat, not a reality.
not worth it to Hilton chain to lose our business for all of the future.
> >
> >Second. The workers in SF are locked out, not on strike. The union's
> >objective is to get the Hilton in SF to let the workers return to work
and then negotiate the contract. Now the company has all the power and
they're saying, "You can come back to work, but only on our terms." HERE
> >that if AAA cancels, it will send such shock waves thru SF that the hotel
> >will let the workers return to work, and allow negotiations to continue.
> >The reason is that AAA is the largest conference in SF in November, so
this could have the desired impact. But only if we cancel.
> >
> >Third: I just got a message from the Society for Cultural Anthropology
that their e-board has voted unanimously to cancel the meeting.
> >
> >I suggest that SEA follow suit.
> >
> >EPD

2) From Anthony Marcus <amarcus at unimelb.edu.au>:

Dear Colleagues,
I just wanted to second the sentiments of the last writer.

Regarding the hotel--the question does not really seem hugely complicated.
The picket line has
brought out this exciting discussion for the simple reason that there is
not that much complexity. The picket line remains a defining battle line
that you are either on one
side of or the other. It is a battle line traditionally drawn by workers
struggling to improve the
conditions of their production--and I would argue, ultimately all of our
production, since the price of labour tends to be ultimately connected for
all who depend on selling their labour for a wage. I am not convinced that
people "womaning" cafeterias are that different and disconnected from "us"
that we need to go interview them to find out what their lives are like in
order to solidarise. That is the beauty of the picket line. The purpose of
the picket line is to define two sides and eliminate the middle of the road
that most of us, who are forced to spend our lives separating work, personal
belief, etc., live in. One side or the other.

Suggestions like the ones earlier that we, as an organisation (a difficult
we to imagine) must get
something for our solidarity or risk being naive, or that strikes are an
outdated and not sophisticated or effective enough form of protest are
problematic. It would be wonderful if the AAA did support this strike and
even discussed the possibility of working with the striking union in some
mutually beneficial arrangement that will not leave "us" naive. However, I
would not expect the striking workers to subordinate their strike to our
financial issues with the hotel. Risking a fight with the hotel is a pretty
small price to pay for labour solidarity, when you think about the price
that has often been paid in jobs and lives for everything from not
patronising a business to hotcargoing. If we wanted solidarity from the
hotel workers on a struggle of ours, conditions would be pretty difficult to
deal with and disturbing. Clearly the picket line is not outdated if it can
create such a discussion

My vote is move the conference and avoid alienating people who respect
picket lines. My guess is that they will be far more alienated by crossing
the picket lines, than people who are merely
inconvenienced by a change of venue, but perhaps I am being naive about how
deeply anti-labour sentiment runs in the AAA. As an earlier comment pointed
out, the AAA does not support our own labour struggles.

Anthony Marcus

3) From Alisse Waterston <AWaterston at aol.com>:

My position and respectful response to Paul McDowell:

I think demonizing the AAA as well as all those in applied subdisciplines is
not a useful way to think about this.  The AAA has a problem: $1.2+ million
to lose - and, as a not-for profit, membership organization, it is already
financially vulnerable, operating on a shoestring budget.  In my view, a
WIN-WIN strategy would be as follows:  WE, the membership put our money
where our mouths are: create and contribute to a special fund (raise the $1
million plus - there are about 10,000 members of the AAA so it's not such a
big deal for most, especially those with established, comfortable, tenure
positions) so that the AAA has the fall-back $ in its pocket to so it CAN be
aggressive with the Hilton.  The Hilton has ONE thing over the AAA which is
the huge financial loss the organization would suffer should it break its
contract with the hotel.  If we back up the AAA financially, the AAA would
no longer be vulnerable to the Hilton, and the AAA can SET THE AGENDA and
MAKE THE DEMANDS (including fighting back the Hilton's on contractual terms,
but they would need $ for such a legal battle).  The AAA can't negotiate
from a position of weakness, but it CAN negotiate from a position of
strength.  We all know about divide and conquer.  As long as we demonize the
AAA, the Hilton is in control.  Should we give the AAA the financial
backing, the organization can de facto  honor the picket line by withdrawing
from the hotel, AND NOT lose the shirt off its back in doing so, AND what
this does, in effect, is put the Hilton in the weaker position vis-a vis all
the players in this situation.

Thank you for your attention.

Alisse Waterston, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Avenue, Room 433
New York, New York 10019
212-237-8956 awaterston at jjay.cuny.edu

4) From Justine P. Vanthilt <jv92 at cornell.edu>:

A few observations:

The Hilton makes sales projections not only room nights and catering, but
also the dry-cleaning, room service, and mini-bar sales. Not stepping a
foot into the Hilton will still hurt their bottom line. The loss of room
nights at the last possible moment of cancellation would be the give the
Hilton the hardest hit.

As for the AAA's financial loss, this is similar to a hurricane, earthquake
or other unanticipated event. No one could accurately predict in the early
stages of conference planning there would be a disaster like a lockout.
Crossing the picket line because one can save $1.2 million at the expense
of people who are losing their jobs is no different than looting. I am
saddened that there even has to be a discussion within the AAA about the
appropriate course of action, though I am grateful to have read many of the
("sanctimonious") posts.

Union leaders are asking for the AAA to not cross the picket line period.

Justine Vanthilt

p.s.have you seen the t-shirt: support the union -- the people who gave us

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