Saturday, October 23, 2004
AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOC. EXEC BOARD & HOTEL WORKERS LOCK OUT IN SF HILTON
Kudos to the AAA Ex. Board and others for their actions, thoughts, andsuggestions. 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 flak for 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 of Hilton? 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 seize this 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 FOR the poor, what’s AAA’s preferential option???
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 theintegrity 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 or postponement should be the last resort. Professors of anthropology should also have their students study this moralityplay and write about it.
at 2:05 AM