Thursday, January 20, 2005

Response from Liz Brumfiel to Walter Goldschmidt

Dear Colleagues:

President Brumfiel has requested that I post her response to Walter Goldschmidt's earlier message.

For those of you who were not in Atlanta, this email reiterates and in some cases clarifies positions that President Brumfiel made there and deserves the same attention as Dr. Goldschmidt's letter.



Dear Wally,

Thank you for your letter of a couple of weeks ago. It clearly expresses your ongoing concern for the well-being for the AAA, and that is heartening.

As I understand it, your letter makes four points, two of which I agree with and two of which I disagree with.

The first is that since I am the current President of the AAA, I am the one who is responsible for the preservation of the organization. I certainly agree with that! I assure you that I have thought hard and worked diligently since I took office fourteen months ago to make the AAA a better organization, one that serves the needs of all its members. This has been particularly true during the past three months, as we faced the challenge of a lock-out of workers by the San Francisco hotels. I am painfully aware of my responsibilities to the organization and its members.

The second point you make is that the AAA is currently in crisis, on the verge of disintegrating. I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. Reading through the Section News of the January 2005 AN, it seemed to me that there is widespread recognition that the Executive Board operated in good faith when it voted to move the meeting to Atlanta. This was true even of sections that went ahead and held their own session in San Francisco. There is also widespread concern about the information available to the Executive Board when it made its decision and the flow of information from the EB to the membership and from the membership to the EB. These are definitely matters requiring serious attention and reform, but they do not constitute a crisis.

The third point you make is that the AAA officers and staff ought to undertake a detailed and public review of the events leading up to the decision to move the meeting to Atlanta. I must also disagree with this position. Such a review would undoubtedly yield conflicting accounts, leading to further accusations and dissention. It would also cost both the AAA officers and staff a great deal of time and energy, time and energy that are better spent in more forward-looking efforts to solve our problems and provide better membership services. I think we know enough about what transpired in October to agree that in situations like this, AAA officers and staff need to begin to react earlier and to consult more extensively with the membership. This was a very painful lesson, but I am confident that we have learned it.

The fourth point you make is that the AAA ought to undertake reforms that will ensure that the events of last October will not be repeated. I agree entirely! For this reason I am creating two Commissions. The Labor Relations Commission is charged with 1) providing information to the AAA Executive Board and staff as they negotiate contracts that promote collective bargaining and the right to organize while protecting the Association from liability and the disruption of its scheduled annual meetings, and (2) seeking alliances with other scholarly associations for the above purposes. The Governance Commission will see reforms in the relationship between the AAA Executive Board and the Sections and to facilitate communication and feedback mechanisms within the AAA as a whole between annual meetings. Both of these Commissions come at the suggestion of membership proposals in response to the Executive Board decision.

I think that the AAA has come though a difficult time fairly well intact. Let us strive to make 2005 a great year for the organization!

With best wishes,


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Letter from Walter Goldschmidt to Liz Brumfiel

Dear Colleagues:

I have been asked by Walter Goldschmidt, former AAA President, to circulate the letter below (sent to current AAA President Liz Brumfiel two weeks ago). Dr. Goldschmidt spoke passionately about the issues of labor relations and AAA governance at the meetings in Atlanta. He has expanded on his thoughts here. I think they warrant a close read.


Rob O'Brien

Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 10:15:01 -0800 To: From: Walter Goldschmidt
Subject: crises Cc: Robert O'Brien, Paul
Dear Liz,

I am concerned that I have not had a response to my letter of two weeks ago. Because the matter goes far beyond you and me, I am having Bob O"Brien circulate it more widely. Wally

To: From: Walter Goldschmidt Cc: Bcc:

Dr. Elizabeth Brumfiel, President American Anthropological Association 2200 Wilson Blvd. Arlington VA 22201

Dear Liz,

This letter is being addressed to you, Liz, as the responsible head of the Association, who has found herself suddenly faced with a crisis of major proportions in what is generally seen as a largely ceremonial and honorific role. You have my sympathy, for I am sure that you wanted to follow some agenda of your own, but now you have no choice. I am giving you friendly advice with sympathy and concern, because conscientious and forceful action is essential for the very preservation of the Association. This is not a melodramatic statement, but a sober assessment. Though I know from experience that it seems the other way around, you are the boss and Bill and the staff are your employees; this means that you are the fall-guy; you are where the buck stops. When I was inducted as an officer of the Association, I and my cohort were advised that as officers we had fiscal responsibility and legal liability, if I remember the terminology correctly, and whether this advisory is still practiced, I am sure it is still the law.

The crisis has two aspects, each of which must be addressed. The first is damage control, for there is great anger at both the manner in which the situation was handled from the outset and the decision that was made and the way it was arrived at. The second is planning for the almost inevitable revisit to the same crisis in 2006. While this will not occur on your watch, the planning for this must be done by you and your successor right away.

1. Damage Control. Given the existence of a contract and the likelihood of a strike, the Association had to face the issue of its memberswillingness to cross the picket lines. Though we are not a union, we are made up largely of liberals who are reluctant to act in support of management. Thus the question was: Can the AAA meet successfully in a hotel that is not merely on strike, but where the workers were locked out? If not, what are the alternatives? The inevitability of having to face this issue raises further questions: Why was there no planning for this likely event? I called my long-term friend, Lucille Horne, on Oct. 12, to find out what was being planned, more to protect my hotel deposit than as a call to action, and was surprised when she blithely said she expected the strike to be over by then. I should have been alerted by this response that sounded more like Rumsfelds planning for Iraq than I like with the same inevitability of disaster. It is of course not Lucilles job to anticipate political disasters -- but what was going on in the administration of Association affairs? Was there no realization of the potential gravity of the situation? Why had there been no canvass of the membership to measure its commitment to support the strikers and its attitude toward crossing picket lines? The opacity of the action that was taken, the sudden and very limited referendum and the decision to take action quite unlike any proposed in the referendum all combine to alienate the membership and exacerbated the latent antagonism that always lies between authority and rank-and-file. It is this alienation that the leadership, both elected and employed, must do all in its power to dispel. It can do this only by a full disclosure of what was said and done leading up to the decision to move to Atlanta and to keep us posted on actions currently being taken with respect to the future. The members need to know in detail just how matters were handled, when was the gravity of the situation realized, what the initial reactions were, what the staff was doing about it, what voices came from the members and whose voices and what knowledge came to dominate the decisions. In short, full disclosure!

The meetings have been held; they were a travesty for the participants, a tragedy for those who most needed them, particularly the young and hungry, and an on-going threat to the integrity of the Association. I feel that neither you nor Bill appreciates the gravity of this situation, and your round-robin letter describing the meetings does nothing to dispel this fear. I had been astonished to find no call for a plenary session to explain and discuss the matter at the meeting, if only to release a little steam. Sitting in the so-called business meeting was like discussing the relative merits of Evian Water over Vichy while the house was burning. It was surreal. There is already an outside threat to use this situation to break up the Association, but nobody seems to have taken the trouble to recognize the presence of that elephant in the parlor.

The only overt expression of awareness and of negotiations was the session called by Paul Durrenberger and Suzan Erem. It gave us a peek at what went on, but did not explain your and Bills role and the decision-making process. Apparently outside consultants were used but no consultation with the membership. There should have been a session called specifically to discuss the issue, with yourself presiding, Bill, Lucille and the President-elect there, in which you outlined for us the history of the action and took questions from the floor.

I urge you now to make up for this failure by establishing a forum in the Newsletter, in which you set forth in painful detail all the discussions and action, starting with the first recognition of the existence of a crisis and continuing on over the years, taking letters of condemnation and advice as well as describing on-going actions until the crisis of 2006 has been resolved. Perhaps this letter could be published as an open letter as a kick-off for such a forum. I urge that you and the staff be open and frank. The crisis was not of your making and the solution was not self-evident, yet the one reached was far from ideal and the membership deserves to know just how it was arrived at and what other solutions were considered. This forum should, if necessary, replace less urgent materials. You dont want a call for a commission of enquiry on the matter, which is the last thing we need.

2. The Coming Crisis. The Faustian bargain reached for the 2004 meeting means that we must meet the devil face to face very soon. You must realize that this strike/lock-out is no mere local conflict, but a major confrontation between labor and management. The union is the largest one in the public sector and represents not only the poorest of the working poor but those very people who are trying to lift themselves out of the poverty level, into which their un-unionized counterparts fall. It is, furthermore, a battle for unionization itself, a battle that had its first skirmish with Reagans defeat of the flight monitors union when he took office. I was dismayed to hear one of the Association officers, whose name I do not know, dismiss the matter as being just a house-keeping girlsissuewhen we had important issues like what should be done about Iraq (about which we can have zero influence) to discuss. I suggest you ask Paul Durrenberger and/or Suzan Erem do explain what is involved, for they are far better qualified than I am to do so. Any assumption that the problem will go away is just more Rumsfeld thinking.Indeed, management will very likely want to chastise us for having walked out of San Francisco.

I cannot advise you on how to solve the problem, but I can suggest some courses of action you should take now. The first is to get the best measure you can of the temper of the Association membership. How many would boycott a meeting that was on strike; how many would refuse to cross a picket line, etc. The second is to create an ad hoc committee made up of knowledgeable people, I would presume chaired by the President-elect, who is saddled with the issue, to explore alternatives, assay their costs and, for those that seem viable, get membership reaction. Third, I would be open about all actions taken, keeping the membership informed through the Forum in the Newsletter and by email.

You have my sympathy, Liz. I have no doubt of your good intentions but I am not impressed with your performance to date. It is not an easy task and I am sure you will have to give up doing a lot of things with your term of office that are more dear to your heart. But it has fallen on your shoulders and you and your President-elect will have to spend long, agonizing hours working on it, learning as you go. But nothing is more important than the resolution of this internal issue to keep our Association intact. If you succeed, you will have accomplished something more important than anything on your (or my) resume.

Happy Holidays!

Walter Goldschmidt, UCLA

Monday, January 17, 2005

Overdue Update

Here's my long-overdue report from the AAA Annual Meeting in ATL, supplemented with some addt'l info received since.

Labor CommissionThe AAA EB has established a Labor Relations Commission. Former AAA President Louise Lamphere will chair. I (and, I believe, Paul Durrenberger) have agreed to serve through the November 2009 Annual Meeting. We haven't met yet, so I'm not sure who else will be on the commission.

The LRC is charged with (1) providing information to the AAA Executive Board and staff as they negotiate contracts that promote collective bargaining and the right to organize while protecting the Association from liability and the disruption of its scheduled annual meetings, and (2) seeking alliances with other scholarly associations for the above purposes.

AAA Dues

The AAA EB announced that they will be introducing an "un- and under-employed" membership category. This will be a category between Student and Professional. Unfortunately, since dues are going up this year, the Un- and Under- category will pay last year's full professional membership rate.

However, the EB has asked the fiduciary committee to investigate a sliding scale fee schedule. Since this will have to be "revenue neutral" (meaning that the AAA cannot make money on the deal), a sliding scale will mean that folks with jobs and security will need to pick up the tab for those of us who don't.

The fiducary committee wil be looking into ways that other professional orgs deal with sliding scales.

DC Contract
Thought you'd be interested, if you hadn't already seen it, UNITE HERE local 25 in DC got a contract offer on Saturday (Hotels, Union Agree on Contract (DC)). It will go to the membership, who seem likely to ratify it. Things look good for 2005 AAA at Wardman Park. The UNITE HERE local didn't get the 2006 date, but, otherwise, seems to have gotten a good contract.

Perhaps we can use an uninterrupted annual meeting in DC to build on the organizing we've begun online and at the SF and ATL meetings.

Future Organizing

My vision for what we need to be working on includes two immediate goals -- organizing around SF 2006 and building a progressive bloc of academics and others to work o labor issues.

San Fran 2006

Unite Here Local 2 in SF is still at the bargaining table. The cooling off period ends on January 23rd. The MEG Hotel group is still making offers that cut health care. They're also still refusing the 2-year contract (which would put SF in the same bargaining cycle as hotels in 6 other cities).

SF is Unite Here's strongest local. The hotels have made a stand there because they know this. AAA can continue to make a difference in this struggle.

First, the 2006 Annual Meeting contract must be renegotiated to include strong language that protects the Association in the event of a labor action or a management lockout.

Second, the association signs contracts several years in advance (I believe we currently have contracts through 2009). We can and should use this as a carrot and a stick for the hotel chains involved in the SF negotiations.

Please contact the EB and your section heads to let them know that you are in favor of these actions.

Building a Progressive Bloc

All told the conference business of progressive organizations (including groups that work on labor, faith, race, gender, sexuality, etc.) and academic conferences accounts for over $250 million of hotel conference business each year. Since this money is, increasingly, the only business that hotels can count on, we wield significant power. The AAA's long-term relationships with Marriot and Hilton demonstrates this relationship -- and its potential power -- when compared with individual business and liesure travel choices made more fickle by online travel services.

In order to strengthen both the position of labor and our own power in negotiating contracts, we need to build a progressive bloc that wields this consumer power. We need to identify people in other professional organizations who we can build alliances with. Anthropologists and the AAA have taken a strong lead in this struggle. we can and should use our successes to build greater power.

Please reach out to colleagues and friends and get them in touch with me, the LRC, or other AAAUnite members so that we can work in coalition.

Union Hotel Options for 2005 AES-SPA Meetings

While there is not a UNITE boycott of the Catamaran (the
conference hotel), the Catamaran is not a union hotel. As
there have been requests by AAA members for info on union
hotels, I am writing to provide this info.

People should consider that AES and SPA have a contractual
obligation to fill a certain number of rooms at the Catamaran.
Their respective EBs have been discussing how to deal with
these financial costs, should they arise. Folks should also be
aware that the contract for the AES-SPA meeting was signed
long before the union-only restriction was approved by the EB
at the 2004 Atlanta meeting.

It looks like the Hyatt and then the Hilton are the best
options. Directions to these two are included. The other
hotels seem much too far.

UNITE HERE Local 30 in San Diego is calling for a boycott of
the following hotels:
Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego La Costa Resort and Spa -
San Diego Mission Valley Hilton

The union hotels, in order of increasing distance, are:

Hyatt Regency Islandia Hotel & Marina Hotel
1441 Quivira Road San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 224-1234
Contact: Angela McMahon
2.5 miles from conference hotel
Driving Directions
1. Start out going SOUTH on MISSION BLVD toward ZANZIBAR CT.
(1.27 miles)
2. Turn LEFT onto W MISSION BAY DR. (0.93 miles)
3. Turn RIGHT onto QUIVIRA RD. (0.32 miles)
4. End at 1441 Quivira Rd San Diego, CA 92109-7805 US
Total Estimated Time: 6 minutes

Hilton San Diego Resort
1775 E. Mission Bay Dr. San Diego, CA 92108
Phone: (619) 276-4010
Contact: Tom Fraher
4.26 Miles from conference hotel
Driving Directions
1. Start out going NORTH on MISSION BLVD toward WAVE CREST CT.
(0.32 miles)
2. Turn RIGHT onto GRAND AVE. (2.38 miles)
3. Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto E MISSION BAY DR. (1.55 miles)
4. End at 1775 E Mission Bay Dr San Diego, CA 92109-6801 US
Total Estimated Time: 10 minutes