SOURCE: Jay Driskell in an Open Letter (5-31-10)
As you are probably aware, this year’s Annual Meeting in San Diego was disrupted by a boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt – one of the hotels in which the meeting was headquartered.
As you might also know, the AHA decided at its 2009 Business Meeting that it would not honor the boycott despite the hotel owner’s anti-worker policies and his support for the discriminatory Proposition 8. The AHA Council justified this decision by stating that pulling out of Manchester Hyatt would cost the organization nearly $800,000 in cancellation fees. Executive Director Arnita Jones claimed these fines would not only enrich Manchester, but would bankrupt the AHA. If that's the real risk, then of course the AHA would have had to find some way of doing the right thing here and continuing to exist.
What was most frustrating about this decision was that it put the AHA’s membership in the position of having to make the difficult choice of either attending their own panels and job interviews or honoring the boycott. Registration numbers suggest that a good number of people may have simply refused to make such a choice. According to Insidehighered.com, attendance at this year’s convention was significantly less than in previous years. As of Jan 1, only 3,705 people had pre-registered. That's down from 5,400 last year (New York City), and 4,366 the year before (Washington, DC). See: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/01/07/qt#216920. Of course, the economy had an impact on this year’s numbers. Even so, the AHA cannot afford to alienate its membership by continuing to hold events at venues without taking into account the impact of disputes with hotel management over labor and other issues.
Luckily, there’s a practical solution to what is becoming a recurring problem.
The Informed Meetings Exchange (INMEX) is a unique meeting planning not-for-profit. While INMEX is independent from UNITE HERE, the two organizations nonetheless work closely together to inform INMEX’s clients about labor-management relationships in hotels across the country. This allows INMEX to ensure its clients are booking their events in destinations that are free from labor disputes and helps steer professional associations away from meeting venues that are likely to be disrupted by a boycott, a picket line or a strike. Its purpose is to make it easier for groups like the AHA to spend their meeting dollars in ways that do not contradict their values and do not disrupt their conventions. Over the years, INMEX has also been able to use its collective clients’ leverage to secure exceptional deals for clients, oftentimes securing hotel rooms rates that are up to 40% off published rates. Unfortunately, at the 2007 Business Meeting the AHA declined to utilize INMEX.
However, should the AHA opt to use INMEX’s services in the future, it would stand a much a better chance of avoiding the sorts of disruptions that we experienced during the 2010 Annual Meeting in San Diego. Additionally, it would also help AHA realize significant cost savings.
As a member of the AHA, I am asking other members of the AHA to sign this public petition calling on the Executive Council to revisit its 2007 decision and choose to use INMEX.
Please forward it on to anyone you know whom you think might be willing to sign it too. Anyone who either is (or has been) a member of the AHA or who attended the conference can add their name.If you would like to know more about the boycott, you can visit:
http://www.sleepwiththerightpeople.org or http://www.boycottmanchesterhotels.com
Finally, here are a couple of news items about the AHA and the boycott. The first is a good article by Scott Jaschik from Insidehighered.com and the second is a relatively unedited clip from YouTube by the History News Network, which shows the protest and contains interviews from people at the convention impacted by the boycott.
University of Arizona