Saturday, October 23, 2004

Board member response to my letter, with my reply

Mr O'Brien,

Thank you for your note. What you neglect is that the Hilton chain is only ONE of ELEVEN chains among the 14 hotels that banded together to resist UNITE. The sad fact is that there is nowhere our very big meeting can be accomodated that isn't one of those chains.

Among the responsibilities we were elected to fulfill, the EB must somehow make certain that our membership is served (especially, in this case, our job-seekers) by the annual meeting and other services AAA provides for its members, which would have been compromised by both the extra outlay (for naught as regards solidarity, since one of the hotels in San Jose is a Hilton) and the exposure to the real threat of a lawsuit (with which the AAA lawyer has personal experience and has thoroughlyresearched).

We are working on ways that job-seekers and colleagues from South countries may be reimbursed, and also on creative ways to help UNITE. We have been working closely with UNITE's leadership, and while I amalso personally disappointed that we couldn't have done more, we sawno other viable alternative.

The EB is at least comforted that UNITE appreciates what we were able to do.

Sincerely,
Carole Crumley
(you are welcome to post this note to your listserv)

Dear Dr. Crumley,

I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my email. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of feedback you are having to deal with at this time, in addition to the logistical nightmare of having to move the conference.

Since the points you make are essentially those made to me by Dr. Beeman, I will reply by forwarding the email I sent to him.

Before getting to that, however, I would like to make an important suggestion to the board. It is clear from the current negotiations with the Hilton that we are in the weakest possible position for an organization of our size. There are several simply steps that must be taken to 1) address this situation and 2) place more responsibility in the hands of the AAA staff so that the board can conduct other business.

1) All of our contracts with vendors must include an "opt- out" clause in the event of a strike.
2) We must immediately purchase cancellation insurance. It is unimaginable that we are currently so exposed.
3) A member (or members) of the AAA staff must be tasked with aggressively negotiating with vendors on progressive issues consistent with the statements and governing principles of this organization.

My response to Dr. Beeman, which addresses the points raised in your email, follows.

Best regards,
Rob O'Brien

Dear Dr. Beeman,

I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my email. Im afraid, however, that we disagree as to whether your email addresses my concerns.

As I pointed out in my email to the board, the UNITE HERE folks are well aware that we were negotiating with MEG- affiliated hotels in San Jose. We worked with them, in fact, as they helped with the planning of San Jose as an option. Although these hotels are affiliated with the national chains that have locked out workers in San Francisco, UNITE HERE members are neither striking against the San Jose hotels, nor are they locked out of them. Further, unlike the Hilton in Atlanta, the hotels that the union helped us identify in San Jose are all union shops.

As to whether Local 2 or the national union were "only concerned that we not hold the meeting in San Francisco," this is simply untrue. While they appreciate the fact that the board decided against completely breaking their picket, my discussions with organizers and Local 2 President Mike Casey made it abundantly clear that a move to San Jose would have been much more powerful politically. It would have broken the contract, thereby giving the union much more support than the bait and switch of Atlanta for San Francisco.

Regarding the expense of breaking the contract, it is far outweighed by the ethical statements agreed to by the AAA, statements that are more than mere position papers to show to beaming undergrads for those of us who have fought to support the locked out workers. Further, as I pointed out in my email, many proposals were floated for creating a legal defense fund. To my knowledge, the board never seriously considered any of them.

I appreciate that the board has made an effort to accomodate those who will be unable to afford the change to Atlanta. As for me, however, I will be boycotting the AAA and attending a counter-conference on the West Coast instead. That way I can continue to struggle alongside UNITE HERE and put aside the shame that I felt earlier as a member of the AAA.

Sincerely,
Rob O'Brien

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