Friday, October 22, 2004

Where we stand now

Dear Colleagues:

I have been in conversation with UNITE HERE in San Francisco and Washington, DC. We've discussed the offer that Hilton has made to the AAA -- which is to move the conference to a non-union corporate-owned Hilton in Atlanta. Barring any worst-case scenario which would keep the conference at the San Francisco Hilton, this is unacceptable. The reasons are simple:

1) AAA has an incredibly viable option to move the conference to San Jose. See the memo text from the San Jose Convention and Vistors' Bureau (SJCVB) below. The SJCVB has offered to negotiate airfare changes to San Jose and has secured incentives in the form of hotel discounts worth $150,000.

2) The union has made it clear that the best way to support their efforts to get locked out workers back in and to get the Multi-Employment Group hotels back to the bargaining table is with our move to San Jose. UNITE HERE estimates that the potential loss of business to San Francisco is over $5 million, which would put significant pressure on politicians who have stayed neutral up to this point.

3) None of the progressive members of the AAA are fooled by the Hilton's crass attempt to subvert the union's efforts and help the AAA save face. As one of you said in a recent email "we should all understand that this does not resolve the basic problem of the Hilton Corporation locking out its workers in San Francisco and refusing to negotiate with their union. It only moves AAA to another Hilton site so all of us, Hilton and AAA can continue business as usual. It brings no pressure to bear on Hilton to let its employees return to work and negotiate with their union. It changes cosmetics, not realities." In effect, we are taking a very long walk through the picket lines if we take this option.

4) Atlanta will not be well attended -- particularly by graduate students and others like me, who cannot afford the costly changes to airfare. SJCVB's offer to negotaiate airfare changes makes attendance possible.

5) All of the sections who have called on the AAA to move the conference have offered financial and logistical assistance. Breaking the contract with the Hilton -- even if they successfully litigate -- does not mean breaking the back of the AAA.

Given the above, I am calling on you all to pull out all the stops to get your sections to stop a move to Atlanta, pushing instead for the move to San Jose. We have to bring public pressure to bear on the AAA to support the members of the AAA Executive and Program Committees who have been fighting the good fight. Section resolutions to the AAA leadership, letters to the editor, Op- Eds to local papers (and to the SF Chronicle and the Washington Post), and solidarity actions with your local unions are all called for at this time.

In hope and solidarity,

Rob O'Brien
PhD Candidate
Temple University

Text of the SJCVB letter follows:

October 21, 2004 To the Leaders of the American Anthropological Association: In a continued effort to provide you with an alternative solution for your 2004 Annual Meeting, the San Jose hotel community has committed to 1,650 rooms per night. This commitment represents 100% of your guest room requirement, all within two blocks of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. This eliminates any transportation requirements for attendees to and from the Convention site. The hotels in downtown San Jose are just 3 miles from the San Jose Mineta International Airport, 36 miles from San Francisco International Airport and 32 miles from Oakland International Airport. Super Shuttle, Cal Train and Taxi Service would be most convenient for your attendees. All hotel rates proposed thus far include a financial consideration estimated at $150,000 that will help to offset any cancellation fees and costs to conduct the convention in San Jose and is payable to AAA. Additionally, the San Jose Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has strong relationships with American, United and Southwest Airlines and will work with you to reduce change fees and fare variations. Again, we thank you for your consideration and look forward to welcoming the American Anthropological Association to San Jose next month. Sincerely, Daniel Fenton President and CEO cc: The Honorable Mayor Ron Gonzales

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