[URBANTH-L]Fwd: [GRADFORUM:2088] an inquiry ...

asteiner at mail.utexas.edu asteiner at mail.utexas.edu
Mon Oct 25 10:45:08 EDT 2004

Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2004 23:02:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: Afra Al-Mussawir <afraalmussawir at yahoo.com>
Subject: [GRADFORUM:2088] an inquiry ...
>To: MESA <mesana at u.arizona.edu>
>Dear Dr. Newhall,
>I am sending this email to all of the MESA Members of the Board, though
>I am addressing this letter to you because I have had the most contact
>with you on the issue of MESAís upcoming Annual Meeting in San
>Francisco in November scheduled to be held at the Hyatt Regency San
>Francisco ñ one of the hotels bring struck by UNION / HERE, a union in
>SF whose members are among the lowest paid hotel workers: cooks, room
>cleaners, bartenders, bellmen, food and beverage servers, bussers,
>housemen, PBX operators and dishwashers.
>One well-respected and highly successful labor lawyer has suggested
>that an organization could minimize financial loss for breaking a
>contract with a hotel.  I do not know whether the MESA contract with
>the Hyatt stipulates arbitration or a jury trial in the case of a
>dispute over the conditions of the contract or breaking it; since San
>Francisco is a pro-labor town, in the event of any litigation the
>verdict from a jury would likely be in favor of labor.  Further, MESA
>may be able to make a case for breaking the contract based on newspaper
>reports of spotty service and on the basis of the fact that any guest's
>implicit contract with a hotel is based on the idea that a peaceful,
>stress-free environment would be provided.  The presence of noisy
>picketers in a labor dispute which the hotel had escalated from a
>strike into a lockout severely compromises the hotel's ability to
>provide this basic service.
>MESA may be able to negotiate a "walkout fee" based on the organization
>being able to show that a majority of its members would stay away from
>the venue, and in the case of such a settlement MESA would not suffer
>the financial losses feared.  The hotel has an incentive to negotiate
>with MESA since, by negotiating a walkaway fee with a month remaining
>for the scheduled meetings, the hotel could theoretically recoup its
>bookings from normal tourism.  Since the labor rights lawyer who made
>these suggestions has successfully negotiated such a walkaway fee in
>another hotel labor dispute a couple of years ago, he has relevant
>experience and sound judgement in such cases, though he has stipulated
>that a skilled labor lawyer would certainly need to read our hotel
>contract closely before making a clear determination of MESAís options.
>  Facing a skilled labor lawyer, the hotel would be on the defensive,
>and MESA may be able to negotiate a minimal walkout fee.  Please inform
>me as to whether the Board has already looked into this possibility.
>We may avoid being complicit with the hotelsí union-busting tactics by
>using the services of a labor lawyer with experience negotiating such
>disputes.  Our goal is to avoid hefty financial losses while making it
>possible for all of us as MESA members to support the union and the
>striking workers, and to avoid having to cross picket lines and engage
>in union-busting.
>Certainly time is a critical element, and I realize that successfully
>getting MESA out of our contract with the Hyatt still leaves us with
>the logistical problems of finding a new venue in San Francisco (or
>nearby cities like Oakland or San Jose) that is not part of this labor
>dispute and can accommodate our needs for this yearís annual meeting
>and rescheduling.  By this route, attendees who have already purchased
>tickets, made hotel arrangements, and secured visas to the US may still
>keep those plans unchanged (though anyone who had planned to stay at
>the Hyatt, the Hilton, or another hotel involved in the lockout may
>wish to change those plans; see http://www.unitehere2.org/ for a
>complete list of the hotels involved ñ this union website also has a
>list of union-friendly hotels in SF not involved in the lockout).
>Believe me, I am fully aware that getting MESA out of our contract with
>the Hyatt does not represent an ultimate solution, and I am NOT
>extending a criticism of the Board by this inquiry.  I am asking about
>this since you mentioned in your previous email to me that a real fear
>of crippling financial losses was the MESA Boardís primary motivation
>in not cancelling our contract with the Hyatt and relocating our annual
>meeting to another venue that is not part of the lockout.  I am also
>asking because I do not (yet) know how the decision was reached to keep
>our annual meeting at the Hyatt, and I do not (yet) know what options
>were considered.
>It is not my intention to add to the burden the Board of Managers and
>the MESA staff are surely facing right now.  I am deeply concerned
>because organizations like MESA and AAA (the American Anthropological
>Association) certainly have influence over the outcomes of this labor
>dispute by our decisions and actions, not only this year but also in
>the future.  I definitely understand and agree that the financial ruin
>of MESA is wholly undesirable, and so finding a solution also means
>avoiding that kind of outcome as well.  I sincerely hope that this type
>of legal negotiation represents such a solution!
>I do not want to add to your substantial responsibilities at this time,
>but I do hope to receive a response to this inquiry.
>Afra Al-Mussawir
>Graduate student, Department of Anthropology and
>The Americo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies,
>The University of Texas at Austin
>* MESA (mesana at u.arizona.edu)
>* Nadia Hlibka (nhlibka at u.arizona.edu)
>* Mark Lowder (mlowder at u.arizona.edu)
>* Sara Palmer (palmers at email.arizona.edu)
>* Aeyn Wheat (aeyn at email.arizona.edu)
>* Laurie Brand (brand at almaak.usc.edu)
>* Ali Banuazizi (ali.banuazizi at bc.edu)
>* Lisa Anderson (la8 at columbia.edu)
>* Hasan Kayali (hkayali at ucsd.edu)
>* Susan Slyomovics (ssly at mit.edu)
>* Leslie Peirce (peirce at socrates.berkeley.edu)
>* Donald M. Reid (dreid at gsu.edu)
>* Ahmad Dallal (asd6 at georgetown.edu)
>* Amira El-Azhary Sonbol (sonbola at georgetown.edu)
>* MESA-GSO listserve
>* AAA listserve for students in the Anthropology of the Middle East
>* UT graduate student listserve for Anthropology students        
>* Professor Ian Manners, Chair of UTís Department of Middle East
>Studies (imanners at uts.cc.utexas.edu)
>* Professor Kamran Aghaie, UTís Department of Middle East Studies
>(kamrana at mail.utexas.edu)
>* Professor Kamran Ali, UTís Department of Anthropology
>(asdar at mail.utexas.edu)
>* Professor Sam Wilson, Chair of UTís Department of Anthropology
>(s.wilson at mail.utexas.edu)
>* Robert T. O'Brien (robrien at temple.edu)
>* Professor Kamala Visweswaran, UTís Department of Anthropology
>(kvis at mail.utexas.edu)

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list