Saturday, October 23, 2004

Hecky Villanueva on Transfer to Atlanta and the SF Lockout

Posted at Hecky's Request:

A stakeholder's influence on a firm depends on the former's power to influence the latter, the legitimacy of the stakeholder's relationship, andthe urgency of the stakeholder's issues vis-à-vis the firm. Further,stakeholders mobilize to emphasize individual or group identify and/or protectvested interests. Overlapping membership across relevant stakeholder groupsaffect degree of mobilization. The presence, absence, and intersection ofthese stakeholder attributes determine the degree of stakeholder salience.

Could the AAA Board and officers, its members, and those attending the AAA 2004conference have leveraged its stakeholder salience vis-à-vis the SF hotelworkers lock-out? The future will hold us, as individuals and anthropologists,accountable for we how acted when minority, migrant, and women workerspractically asked for the institutional help of the anthropological communityin their struggle to protect their rights to organize, secure living wages, andhealth benefits.

If the hotels could organize the SF Multi-Employer group and lock out theirhotel workers when one hotel went on strike, then why cannot hotel workersalign their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) nationally? If hotelchains can organize themselves internationally, why can?t workers organizethemselves nationally?

Hilton Hotels Corp. a publicly traded corporation (HLT) had revenues for thefirst six months of 2004 rising 9% to $2.06B, with net income rising 78% to$112M. It forecasts continued growth until 2010. Stephen F. Bollenback,Co-Chairman and CEO of Hilton earns $3.1 M a year with stock options of$34Million. Hilton's President and COO, Mathew J. Hart, earns $1.12 Milliona year with millions as well in stock options. They can well afford healthinsurance.

As I previously wrote, pressure should have been laid to bear on Hilton. Afterall, with an estimated 5,000 participants to the AAA conference, the AAA andthe anthropological community, is a formidable sector. It has national andinternational scope. It has credibility and some form of influence.Anthropologists have families, friends, and relatives who they can also request to support just living wages and benefits.

The AAA is an aggrieved party as the lock out compromises the integrity of theconference. Moving to a non-unionized hotel during the thick of a hotel labordispute that is becoming systemic nationwide sends the wrong message thatanthropologists, harbingers of society's norms and actions, are insensitiveto the plight of minority, women, and immigrant workers. A nuanced approachshould have been undertaken before reaching a decision. This is not a?win-win? approach.

As Cristine Holmberg noted, anthropologists could have been 'subversive?without AAA suffering a financial loss. For example, AAA could have clarifiedwith the Hilton what is the minimal usage allowed for it not to sue. Thefacilities could have been then turned over to labor organizers, activists, andanthropologists engaged with the labor sector to discuss the issues. Therented facilities could have been provided to activists and researchers to dotheir thing or even for press conferences, or debates and town hall meetingsbetween pro and anti lockout views. Paid for hotel rooms could have beenprovided to locked out workers, families who may be spending money shuttlingto and fro the ?war zones?. SF will be chilly in November.

The AAA then could have pressured Hilton to agree to the transfer to San Joseusing Hilton facilities. After all, the union agreed to the San Joserelocation proposal.

The AAA Board perceives a tight coupling between AAA and Hilton and otherconference sites. Hence it sees little room for strategizing. This tightcoupling should not have been set in the first place had human and labor rightsbeen in place in selecting conference sites. This tight coupling asrepresented by contracts should be loosened immediately.

Further, the silence of AAA, the Board and its officers, and the anthropologycommunity (as an institution) on this hotel worker lock out is becoming deafening.The decision to move the conference to a non-unionized Hilton hotel in Atlantashows how pervasive capital indeed is and how it can manipulate thetemporal-spatial continuum.

MAKI BAKA! HUWAG MATAKOT! (Join the struggle! Do not be scared!).
Hecky Villanueva
PhD program
Department of Anthropology
University of Arizona


Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 22:53:58 -0700
From: "Ronald Hector A. Villanueva"
To: Tom Sheridan
Subject: Re: Fw: AAA EXEC BOARD & LABOR SITUATION IN SF

Kudos to the AAA Ex. Board and others for their actions, thoughts, and suggestions. While I sympathize with AAA's looming legal and financial woesshould the conference be cancelled, I think the sober legal assessment ofAAA's lawyers need to be taken in context. We actually have more options than we think.

My comments:
1. Does the AAA-Hilton contract state that AAA is committed to uphold thecontract despite the negative publicity to AAA and the respective participantspersonally from crossing the picket line? In other words, in signing thecontract with Hilton, did it mean that the legitimacy of AAA as a ?moral,ethical organization? should be disregarded? Why should AAA take the flakfor the collapse of Hilton's labor-management relations?

2. The burden of upholding the contract lies with the Hilton and not the AAA. When AAA signed the contract with Hilton, it signed on the premise that thelatter would provide first-class service. It did not include negativepublicity, potential for interorganizational conflict (with labor and supportgroups), safety issues, and emotional distress for AAA and conferenceparticipants.

3. I would like to assume that AAA only does business with legitimatebusinesses. Does AAA have a standard or criteria for businesses it deals with? If there are ethical standards for anthropologists, green standards, etc.,then AAA should have one for business partners as well. Did Hilton violateany of these standards? If so, then the contract should be reviewed with thegoal of reneging.

4. Going back to legitimacy, does the strike now compromise the legitimacy ofHilton? If Hilton's actions on the strike are deemed immoral, unethical,illegal (by whom?), AAA, as a direct impact stakeholder, should immediatelywithdraw its relationship with Hilton.

5. AAA can demand that Hilton provide another suitable location without thestrike, but then this would weaken the moral stand of the AAA vis-à-vis theworkers. At this point, what exactly is the stand of the AAA vis-à-vis thestrike? If AAA is wary of taking a stand, it can express deep concern andanxiety to Hilton on the crisis, in effect, leaning on them to resolve theconflict in a mutually beneficial manner.

6. The point is, AAA which has a huge contract signed with Hilton is in aposition to pressure Hilton to deal fairly with the workers. Will AAA seizethis opportunity? AAA has the power, legitimacy, and urgency to do so(withholding the payments and counter-suing, asking all AAA members to boycottHilton, preparing a critical statement, and the other actions alreadysuggested) to do so. It can demand that Hilton do the right thing NOW.

7. There is no easy way out, with negotiations and conflict resolution. AAAshould look into appraising Hilton and the workers of these discussions. Hilton will be pressured while the workers encouraged. I?m sure otherconference clients of Hilton are doing the same. They are also direct impactstakeholders and are concerned at Hilton's actions.

8. Media will play a key role here. AAA's actions will be scrutinized. Should it concede to Hilton and cross the picket line, it's credibility andlegitimacy will be compromised. Is it worth the $1.3 M? I think AAA shouldlook at counter-legal actions and try to break the contract.

9. Lastly, most of the hotel workers are, aside from being from the lowereconomic class, mostly minorities, women, and immigrants. The Roman CatholicChurch as a preferential option to the poor, what's AAA's preferentialoption???

10. There are now 14 locked out hotels. Another 26 are on the strike watchlist. Is the crisis becoming systemic? UniteHere.org posted the SFExaminer's report that the SF Fashion Week conference has been scrapped. Surely, AAA wouldn?t want to be compared to the fashion industry regardingdoing what is right.

Here's the quote: "A dose of high fashion injected the ongoing hotel labor dispute Monday asworkers and owners clashed over the cancellation of The City's first-ever SanFrancisco International Fashion Week. Event promoters pulled the plug on the glitzy three-day event late Friday night,stating that the lockout at 14 major city hotels had "seriously affected" thehigh-fashion affair. Founder and producer Jacinta Law said picket lines would "compromise the integrity of the event" and instead she would focus on a spring season show inMarch. She said the lockout would affect "designer accommodations, eventheadquarters, pre-event publicity, press junket, awards luncheon, andpost-event parties that were planned in these hotels."

The pressure should be laid to bear on Hilton and not the AAA. In the meantime,another venue should be seriously considered. Anthropologists should be able to put up with the hassles. It's the least they could do. Cancellation orpostponement should be the last resort.Professors of anthropology should also have their students study this moralityplay and write about it.

Hecky Villanueva
PhD program
Department of Anthropology
University of Arizona

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