Tuesday, November 23, 2004

UNITE HERE on AAA Communication

To AAA Section Leaders and Board Members,

I have thought for some time about the utility of responding to Bill Davis and Kim Baker's version of the history of communication efforts between our union, UNITE HERE and the AAA staff. After consultation with various interested parties in the AAA, I decided it was important to inject some facts, that are documented, regarding our outreach efforts.

I am attaching a timeline of our outreach efforts [appended below as inline text] to the AAA staff that date back to August 27. In this timeline I include internal e-mails and notes from the staffer from our organization who lead the outreach efforts to the AAA from August 27 forward.

As you will see in the notes and e-mails contained herein, after being referred to Lucille Horn by Liz Brumfiel, our staffer Amy Willis, left countless messages for Ms. Horn from August 31 to September 21. Finally, after not having any of her calls or e-mails returned by Ms. Horn, Amy reached out to Liz Brumfiel, via e-mail on September 21, and asks her to intervene and play a constructive role in helping facilitate contact with Ms. Horn about our concerns and issues.

Despite Baker and Davis' assertion, Ms. Horn never returned one message from Amy Willis, which is what necessitated the further communications and request for Liz Brumfiel to intervene (see internal e-mail dated September 7 and 21 in attached document). We also have preserved Amy Willis' work voicemail with all messgaes saved from August 1- present and there is not one message from Ms. Horn or any other AAA staffer on her voicemail or her cell phone.

What is important to understand about our outreach efforts from August 27 through September is that we wanted to start a line of communication with the AAA. We knew there was a high likelihood of a strike or lockout, given the contract expiration in San Francisco, and as a result we wanted to talk to the AAA staff and leadership about ways they could help to prevent such an outcome by communicating with the hotel.

Additionally, we wanted to talk to the AAA staff about alternative options for hotels and meeting places so AAA members would not have to cross any picket lines, in the event of a strike or lockout. We were having the same conversations with many other big groups and had successfully aided some of them in finding alternative accommodations.

We were somewhat puzzled by the uncooperative nature of the AAA staff in discussing these issues with us, especially since we had worked so well with other academic groups- like the Sociologists, the Geographers, the American Studies Association and many other academic organizations.

On September 29, our union in San Francisco called a two-week strike and only then did the AAA staff begin to talk to us.

In terms of Baker and Davis' recollection of their communication with Kelly Dugan, that is also riddled with inaccuracies. First of all, despite what Davis and Baker allege, she is not a member of our Union's national Strategic Affairs Department. She is the community coordinator of our Local union in San Francisco. Without spending too much time refuting Baker and Davis's recollections of those conversations, it is inconceivable that Kelly would not be helpful about information for alternative accommodations and meeting options, since that is a big part of her job in San Francisco. I have spoken to her about the version of events recounted by Davis and Baker and she strongly disputes their version of events.

In terms of UNITE HERE staffer Rose Murphy's conversations with Ms. Horn, it is true they happened on those days, however, despite our offers, at no time was Ms. Horn interested in our offer to help with alternative accommodations or other logistical assistance. I personally left two messages for Ms. Horn On Wednesday October 20, offering UNITE HERE's assistance and I never heard back from her.

Obviously, after we were on strike and then locked-out, the communication between the AAA staff and my staff increased, however, these were conversations that never had a cooperative tone of two interested parties seeking a solution to a problem. Time and again my staff and I felt as though the AAA staff viewed us in an adversarial way, that it was somehow our fault that this labor dispute was disrupting their meeting. While I completely understand that sentiment given how hard I am sure they worked on arranging the meeting, it was not a helpful dynamic given our collective need to find a soultion to a bad problem.

It was not until October 21, when I received a phone call from Alan Goodman, did our Union, UNITE HERE, feel we had a partner from the AAA who was genuinely interested in problem solving. It is unfortunate that it took that long to get us working together, however, it was not because of a lack of sincere effort on the part of UNITE HERE to reach out to the AAA and its staff to discuss these issue dating back to August 27.

I hope this sheds some more light on the history of our outreach efforts to the AAA and we can avoid these problems as we continue to work together in the future.

If anyone has any questions or is interested in copies of the internal e-mails and notes from our staff on the history of our outreach efforts to the AAA, I am happy to provide them.

Thank you for your time- please see attached timeline document which contains internal UNITE HERE notes and e-mails.

Neal Kwatra


Contents of Kwatra's attachment:

AAA and UNITE HERE – summary of communications

August 27th

- Phone call from Amy Willis to Kim Baker, looking for AAA’s support in our members’ campaign for a fair contract. Kim referred Amy to Liz Brumfiel, President of AAA. She noted that, although Lucille Horn was the meeting planner, Amy should talk to Ms. Brumfiel first.

- Voice mail message from Amy Willis to Liz Brumfiel, asking for AAA’s support and a call back.

- Email from Amy Willis to Liz Brumfiel where Amy explained the importance of academic associations to the hotel companies, what we wanted the associations to do to support the hotel workers campaigns in DC, LA and SF and also what the status of the workers’ contracts was in San Francisco.

August 29th:

- Liz Brumfiel e-mails Amy back and arranges a phone call for the week of the 30th.

August 30th:

- In Amy’s first weekly update on her progress with academic organizations, she has the following to report on her dealings with the AAA thus far. From an internal memo dated 8/30/04:

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

Spoke with Kim Baker, who referred me to Liz Brumfiel (Northwester University), President of AAA. Brumfiel e-mailed me and asked me to call her this week, which I will do. Depending on what she says, I may then be able to talk to Lucille Horn, the AAA’s in-house meeting planner.

Follow up: Call Brumfiel and Horn

August 31st:

- Amy speaks to Liz Brumfiel for the first time. Their conversation has to do with actions the AAA can take in support of the workers, including writing to Hilton, passing a resolution, and integrating FM language into their hotel contracts. Brumfiel also indicates in that conversation that Lucille Horn is the person to contact about AAA’s meeting contracts, relationships with different hotel companies, hotel contacts, etc.

- Having talked first to Brumfiel, as Baker had advised, Amy calls Lucille Horn for the first time. Amy gets her voicemail and leaves a message. Amy mentions that she’s talked to both Baker and Brumfiel and that they had suggested a phone call to discuss the situation with the hotel workers in SF, LA, and DC and what the AAA could do to help their fight. Ms. Horn does not return Amy’s call.

September 3rd:

- In Amy’s second weekly update on her progress with academic organizations, she has the following to report on her dealings with the AAA thus far. From an internal memo dated 9/3/04:

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

Contact: Liz Brumfiel, Northwestern University, AAA President, 847-491-4564

Upcoming Meetings: 2004 (November 17 – 21) - Hilton and Towers, San Francisco; 2005 - Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, DC; 2006 – Hilton, Atlanta

Size of Meeting: 6,000 attendees

Meeting Planner: In-house, Lucille Horn (I have not been able to speak with her yet, despite leaving numerous messages)


September 7th

- Amy calls Lucille Horn again, but again gets her voicemail. Amy waits until the 7th day because she’s been told that Ms. Horn only works one day per week and 9/7/04 was the next day that she was supposed to be in the office. Again, Ms. Horn does not return Amy’s call.

- Amy also e-mails Liz Brumfiel regarding a change in UNITE HERE’s timeframe in terms of getting the associations to act, and about Lucile Horn. From Amy’s 9/7 email to Ms. Brumfiel:

From: ar_willis@comcast.net
To: ebrumfiel@northwestern.edu
Subject: UNITE HERE
Date: Tue, 07 Sep 2004 20:12:41 +0000
Hello, Prof. Brumfiel,
I wanted to follow up with you on UNITE HERE's efforts with academic associations. Our timeline has been condensed somewhat and we are now pushing to get letters out to some of the hotels as early as next week, around the time that the contract expires in DC.
I have not been able to speak with Lucille Horn, but am continuing to try to get in touch with her to determine who she has dealt with directly in organizing AAA's meetings.

September 8th:

- Amy leaves a message for Kim Baker, asking for her help in getting a hold of Ms. Horn.

September 9th

- Amy calls Kim Baker and speaks to her. Ms. Baker again tells Amy that she has to speak to Ms. Horn for information about AAA’s meeting planning and anything to do with the upcoming meeting in San Francisco.

September 10th:

- Amy leaves another message for Ms. Horn on her voicemail. Amy also calls Ms. Brumfiel to seek her assistance, but does not reach her.

- In Amy’s third weekly update on her progress with academic organizations, she has the following to report on her dealings with the AAA thus far. From an internal memo dated 9/10/04:

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

Contact: Liz Brumfiel, Northwestern University, AAA President, 847-491-4564

Upcoming Meetings: 2004 (November 17 – 21) - Hilton and Towers, San Francisco; 2005 - Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, DC; 2006 – Hilton, Atlanta

Size of Meeting: 6,000 attendees

Meeting Planner: In-house, Lucille Horn (I have not been able to speak with her yet)

Update: I’ve still not been able to speak to Lucille Horn. I’ve left numerous messages with her and with another woman at their office, but to no avail. I tried to get Liz Brumfiel today, but did not reach her. I will call again on Monday and ask if she can put pressure on Horn to get me the info.

September 11th – 14th:

- Amy leaves two more voice mail messages for Ms. Horn.

September 15th:

- Still not having heard from Ms. Horn, Amy calls Liz Brumfiel to ask for her assistance in reaching Ms. Horn. Ms. Brumfiel says she is reluctant to intervene with Horn on Amy’s behalf, stating that she feels Horn’s failure to return Amy’s calls is due to her being in the office on a limited basis. Ms. Brumfiel suggests that Amy e-mail Horn, which she does that day. From Amy’s 9/15 email to Lucile Horn:


From: ar_willis@comcast.net
To: lhorn@aaanet.org
Subject: Hotel Information for UNITE HERE
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2004 20:40:20 +0000
Hello, Lucille,
I'm just following up on some phone messages I left over the past couple of weeks. I work for UNITE HERE, the hotel workers' union.
I have spoken with Liz Brumfiel about the AAA's writing a letter of support for the hotel workers because they are working without a contract. We want to be sure that the letter goes to the correct contact -- the one with whom you and the AAA have a relationship -- in order that it be as effective as possible.
Would you be so kind as to give me the names, titles and contact information of the hotel sales people you've worked with to arrange the AAA's upcoming meetings at the SF Hilton and the Marriott Wardman Park in DC and also at the Atlanta Hilton.
Also, if you work closely with a national sales person at either the Hilton or the Marriott companies in planning these meetings it would be helpful to have that contact information.
Thank you very much for your assistance with this effort.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Amy Willis
UNITE HERE
415-864-6881

Ms. Brumfiel also suggests that Amy should get back to her if Ms. Horn continues to be unresponsive.

September 17th:

- In Amy’s fourth weekly update on her progress with academic organizations, she has the following to report on her dealings with the AAA thus far. From an internal memo dated 9/17/04:

American Anthropological Association (AAA)

Contact: Liz Brumfiel, Northwestern University, AAA President, 847-491-4564

Upcoming Meetings: 2004 (November 17 – 21) - Hilton and Towers, San Francisco; 2005 - Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, DC; 2006 – Hilton, Atlanta

Size of Meeting: 6,000 attendees

Meeting Planner: In-house, Lucille Horn (I have not been able to speak with her yet)

Update: I’ve been trying for weeks – by phone and e-mail – to get Lucille Horn, the AAA’s conference planner to get back to me. I’ve left messages with her and with another woman at their office, but to no avail. I talked to the AAA’s president, Liz Brumfiel, on the 15th. She was hesitant to intervene and wanted me to give Lucille one more try, which I did. Since I have still not heard from her, I will call Brumfiel and Horn on Monday and really try to push whomever I reach.

September 21st:

- Ms. Horn has still not responded to emails or phone calls as of this date. Amy E-mails Ms. Brumfiel asking for her help getting information from Horn. From Amy’s 9/21 email to Liz Brumfiel

From: ar_willis@comcast.net
To: ebrumfiel@northwestern.edu
Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 21:07:18 +0000
Hello, Professor Brumfiel,
I just wanted to check in with you becaue I still have not been able to speak with Lucille Horn about the meeting planning contacts she has with AAA's conference hotels.
I've left her about a half dozen messages and sent an e-mail, but have not had a response. I realize she is only in the office on a limited basis and must be very busy, but I'm feeling a bit pressed to get this information.
As you may know, LA, SF and DC all voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. It is somewhat urgent now that we get letters to the hotels letting them know that the labor dispute is of serious concern to academic associations, as well as others.
Would it be possible for you to give Lucille a call and ask her to get in touch with me to discuss the contact information. I don't think it will require much of her time.
I greatly appreciate your assistance with this.
Also, can you tell me what the possibility would be of getting something from the AAA out to the Hilton in the near future? With your meeting coming up in SF, it would be very powerful.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Amy Willis
UNITE HERE
415-864-6881

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