Tuesday, November 23, 2004

AAA on UNITE HERE Communication

Memo to Sections on AAA/UNITE HERE Communication

I know that there is wide interest among Section leaders in what AAA leadership and staff did to communicate with the leadership of UNITE HERE. Following is a review of the communications that took place.

On, or about, September 1, AAA President Liz Brumfiel received a call from a woman identifying herself as a representative of UNITE HERE. The representative asked for information on the Association's policy relative to meeting in unionized hotels. Dr. Brumfiel reported that AAA had a preference for meeting in unionized hotels, and referred the representative to Lucille Horn, AAA's Director of Meetings for further information. Brumfiel reports that it is possible that she and the rep discussed (in general terms) the union's assistance in relocating the meeting. However, Brumfiel does not remember this as being the primary objective of the call, and these topics were not discussed in the union's subsequent contacts with Lucille Horn.

On September 2 and again on September 6, Ms. Horn received telephone messages from Amy Willis of the UNITE HERE staff asking for the dates and locations of all of AAA's future Annual Meetings as well as copies of AAA's contracts with each hotel. Ms. Horn returned each call and left messages but heard nothing more from anyone at
UNITE HERE until October 12.

The San Francisco Hilton Hotel employees went on strike on Wednesday, September 29.

On Wednesday, October 6, President Brumfiel had the first conversation with UNITE HERE staff related to an alternative location for the 2004 Annual Meeting. That day, she received a call from a UNITE HERE staff member Kelly Dugan urging AAA to cancel its meeting at the SF Hilton Hotel and offering to help locate and arrange for alternative space. Dr. Brumfiel asked Ms. Dugan to communicate with AAA Executive Director Bill Davis about the details of such assistance and reported the conversation to Mr. Davis that evening.

Davis attempted to reach Mr. Dugan the next day, but did not reach her until October 8. On October 8, he had a lengthy conversation with Ms. Dugan. During that conversation, he indicated quite clearly that many members of AAA would be loath to cross a picket line at the SF Hilton and asked Ms. Dugan for assistance in making
arrangements to move the AAA 2004 Annual Meeting to alternative properties in San Francisco that were not being struck or locked out. Her response was (1) to refer him to the UNITE HERE website to get a list of SF hotels that were not part of the 14-hotel group, and (2) to FAX him a chart outlining the meeting room capacities for
the hotels that were on the UNITE HERE website.

Davis described at length the many requirements for AAA's meeting, indicated clearly that AAA would need UNITE HERE's help in locating specific facilities that could accommodate various elements of the meeting (sleeping rooms for 4,000 attendees, 450 session meeting rooms and 250 special events meeting rooms of various sizes on specific days and time blocks, space for our job placement center, a location for our exhibits program, etc.) Her response was to say that items (1) and (2) above were all the assistance that UNITE HERE could provide.

During that same telephone conversation, Davis also conveyed to Ms. Dugan that the AAA and its members were very much in sympathy with the striking/locked out workers and wanted very much to be helpful both to hotel employees and to the Union. He asked Ms. Dugan for her assistance, advice and counsel in helping to identify specific actions that the American Anthropological Association and its individual members might take to support the striking/locked out workers and union's efforts. Her response was to say that the only thing she was authorized to do was urge AAA to move its meeting out of the SF Hilton Hotel and its members not to cross the picket
lines. She indicated that she could not discuss other actions that might be helpful.

He then identified to Ms. Dugan several specific actions that AAA and members of the Association had suggested and asked whether these actions would be helpful in demonstrating and/or providing support for the striking/locked out workers. She replied that she had been told that she could not discuss anything other than why AAA should move its meeting, and why AAA's members should not cross the picket

Finally, Davis asked Ms. Dugan if he might talk to others on the UNITE/HERE staff who would be able to discuss any or all of these matters at greater length, and if so who those individuals might be. Her reply was that she was the person in UNITE HERE's Strategic Affairs Department designated to coordinate with AAA and there
wasn't anyone else with whom he could speak.

On October 12, 15, 19 and 21 Lucille Horn, AAA's Director of Meetings spoke with Rose Murphy of the UNITE HERE staff. On each of these occasions, Ms. Murphy reported the major issues involved in the strike/lockout and offered to help AAA find alternative meeting space for the 2004 Annual Meeting. On each occasion, Ms. Horn asked for such help and Mr. Murphy responded that the appropriate UNITE HERE representative would call Ms. Horn with such assistance. No return call was ever received and no assistance was ever provided.

Given the need to identify alternative arrangements for the 2004 Annual Meeting, AAA secured the services of ConferenceDirect, a consulting firm specializing in annual meeting site selection and contract negotiations with conference hotels and convention centers. Research on such alternatives was conducted by ConferenceDirect and the results of that research became the basis for the AAA Executive Board's decisions regarding eventual relocation of the 2004 Annual Meeting to Atlanta.



Kimberley Baker
Section Liaison & Executive Secretary
American Anthropological Association
(703) 528-1902 ext 3027


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