Why Is the OAH Moving Its Convention from San Francisco to San Jose?



HNN, 2-21-05

Why Is the OAH Moving Its Convention from San Francisco to San Jose?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

On February 15th the Organization of American Historians issued a press release indicating that officials had finally decided to move the 98th annual conference to San Jose, California in light of the continuing labor troubles at the San Francisco Hilton, where the conference was originally scheduled. Lee Formwalt, the OAH’s association’s executive director, stated that remaining in San Francisco “would have destroyed the integrity of the meeting,” since many key scholars would choose not to attend on moral grounds. The Hilton is one of fourteen hotels boycotted by the union UNITE HERE. Local 2, the San Francisco hotel workers’ union, staged the boycott to put pressure on the hotels to negotiate new favorable contracts. The old contract expired on August 14, 2004.

The UNITE HERE Local 2 union includes 12,000 workers in the hospitality industries in San Francisco and San Mateo. According to the union’s website; “UNITE HERE!
is the newly-constituted union of workers in North America’s hotel, restaurant, laundry, and textile industries. It was formed in July 2004, from the merger of UNITE! (formerly the Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textiles Employees and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees), and represents over 440,000 active members in the US and Canada).”

In September, the three UNITE HERE! local’s contracts expired or were close to expiration, and the workers were looking for a far more favorable contract which would include wage and pension increases, and more health care coverage than the hotels have been willing to offer. But the major issue is the length of the contracts that the union workers desire. To give themselves greater leverage over the hotels nationwide, they want all North American Union hotel contracts to expire at the same time: 2006. The San Francisco hotels, worried about giving the unions added leverage and concerned with fresh labor demands in 2006, objected, preferring a longer five-year contract.

The union dispute is with an association of fourteen high-end San Francisco hotels that form the San Francisco Multi-Employer Group. These hotels include: the Hilton San Francisco, Argent Hotel, Crowne Plaza Union Square, Four Seasons, Fairmont, Grand Hyatt Union Square, Holiday Inn Civic Center, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf, Hyatt Regency Embarcadero Center, Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental, Omni Hotel, Sheraton Palace and the Westin St. Francis. On September 14 even with the contract negotiations still under way the union members decided to strike. USA Today reported that “Close to 97 percent of the 4,300 workers represented by Local 2 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union at 14 hotels voted to strike.”

On September 29, 2004 hotel employees and members of UNITE HERE launched a limited two-week strike against four hotels. The hotels then locked out workers from the ten remaining MEG hotels. The fourteen MEG hotels decided on October 12 to extend the lockout beyond the two-week strike. This prompted the union and their supporters to gather in Union Square for a unity rally in which the Rev. Jesse Jackson, San Francisco religious leaders, and elected officials attended. Later the same evening, Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator John Edwards, who was on the campaign trail, joined the picket line at the Sheraton Palace, to show his support for San Francisco’s hotel workers. The lockout finally ended on November 20. Near the end of November the mayor of San Francisco , Gavin Newsom, proposed a sixty-day cooling off period which both sides agreed to. During this time the union and MEG attempted to negotiate a new contract. However, the cooling-off period ended on January 23, 2005.

The union initiated a boycott of the hotels beginning in early September. Hotel union president Mike Casey claims that a boycott is “the only way to get a settlement here — when some bean-counter decides it’s better to settle with the union than to continue to lose millions of dollars in business.”‘ Union picketers have distributed leaflets to guests outlining their position. By the third week of the strike union members were asking organizers of upcoming conventions and trade shows to change their plans. Two weeks before the end of 60-day cooling-off period on January 23, union members had contacted over a dozen large convention groups and meeting planners urging them to avoid the hotels and move their business elsewhere, such as the hotels listed on the “safe” list on the UNITE HERE Local 2 website. In response, Matt Adams, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero and a negotiator with the hotel coalition, stated that encouraging convention groups and meeting planners to boycott the hotels is tantamount to harassment. In a January 21, 2005 article in the San Francisco Business Times Adams claimed, “The harassing phone calls to meeting planners have increased dramatically. No one has canceled yet because of it, but it certainly leaves a bad taste in their mouth.”

No one may have cancelled at Adams’s hotel, the Hyatt Regency, but the union’s boycotting tactics convinced a number of academic associations to change the venue of their annual meetings. In October, 2004 the American Anthropological Association decided to relocate its November conference from the Hilton in San Francisco to December at the Hilton in Atlanta. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of theMLK Labor & Community Breakfast also decided to change its venue from the San Francisco Hilton because of the labor dispute. The chapter, with its 600 participants, held its event instead at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn, one of the hotels on UNITE HERE’s list of approved hotels. According to Millard Larkin, the event’s coordinator, the change was made “in response to concerns from participants, many of whom are union members, rather than in response to any outside lobbying by UNITE HERE.”

Some associations have declined to change venues. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) initially contemplated moving its November annual meeting from San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency. MESA then decided to have the conference there because the cooling-off period had been instituted, even though many members were not willing to attend the meeting if they had to cross picket lines. In the end 1,400 people attended the MESA meeting.

Other conferences and events that were planned in San Francisco and went off as scheduled despite the unions’ objections included LightShow/West, the inaugural Digital Retailing Expo, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Conference & Exhibition, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, a meeting of CTIA Wireless LT. & Entertainment, and a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

As late as January 28, 2005 the OAH was hoping to continue with the original plan to hold the conference in San Francisco, but steps were undertaken to develop a contingency plan. Many OAH members were reluctant to cross picket lines to attend the conference. Members who wanted to ensure that there would be a change in the convention’s venue circulated a petition among OAH members in an attempt to prod the OAH to accommodate union demands. 110 OAH members signed the petition. The OAH itself surveyed the members who had preregistered for the conference. Of 900 registrants, some 500 responded. Seventy-five percent indicated they would not cross a picket line.

In explaining its decision to relocate the conference, the OAH mainly cited practical considerations. If the OAH remained in San Francisco it risked losing up to $412,000 in attrition charges and $99,000 in revenue from registration fees. If the convention was cancelled outright the OAH would have lost in excess of $700,000. Moving the meeting to San Jose, the other closest viable city from San Francisco, is costing the OAH an unbudgeted additional expense of $60,000, plus the money owed to the Hilton San Francisco for previously booked rooms and meeting sites, which could cost as much as $390,000.

The American Anthropological Association also contemplated moving its meeting to San Jose, but decided not to because of the risk the change would have cost the organization up to $1.2 million. Instead, the AAA arranged to meet at the Atlanta Hilton. The AAA’s board approved $50,000 to help graduate students and some foreign scholars with the additional costs that would be incurred because of the change to Atlanta.

This past week, two days after the OAH made its decision to move to San Jose, the San Francisco Business Times’s fifth annual meeting of the Mayors’ Economic Forecast, featuring Mayor Newsom and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, decided to change its venue as well. Originally scheduled at the San Francisco Hilton for February 25, the meeting was moved to the Oakland Convention Center. The change in location was to accommodate Mayor Newsom, who has decided not attend events at the targeted hotels until the dispute is resolved and a contract negotiated. No hotel on the union’s safe list could accommodate the 1,000 people expected for the event. Publisher Mary Huss explained: “It was a business decision. I did not want to move the date for an economic forecast. I have sponsors. It’s a financial decision.”

OAH officials are now scrambling to organize the San Jose convention. This week the OAH will be posting on its website details to help members book hotel rooms in San Jose. Those who fly into San Francisco will be taken by shuttle to San Jose.

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Q & A: What Did Condi Rice’s Nomination in the 21st Century Have in Common with Henry Clay’s in the 19th?



HNN, 2-14-05

What Did Condi Rice’s Nomination in the 21st Century Have in Common with Henry Clay’s in the 19th?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

On January 26, 2005 history was made when the Senate confirmed Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state by a vote of 85 to 13. No black woman had ever held the post. But the vote also made history in another, less fortunate way. As the Associated Press widely reported, more senators voted against Rice’s nomination than against any other secretary of state since 1825, when Henry Clay was up for the position and was confirmed by a vote of 27-14.

Even though Rice may have had the largest number of “no” votes for confirmation since Clay, in proportion to the total number of senators, she did better than he had. She received 13 “no” votes or 13 percent of the total; Clay received 14 “no” votes or 34 percent. Still the opposition they faced in the Senate shared remarkable similarities.

The fierce opposition in the Senate toward Henry Clay’s nomination as was a direct fallout from the 1824 presidential campaign and the “Corrupt Bargain” allegedly made between John Quincy Adams and Clay. In 1824, there were four candidates running for president; President Monroe’s secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, Senator Andrew Jackson, Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford, and the incumbent Speaker of the House, Henry Clay. All the candidates were members of the Republican-Democratic Party, and voting loyalties were sectional. In the election Jackson won the popular vote, and had a plurality of the electoral votes but not the necessary majority. The precise breakdown showed that Jackson had 99 Electoral College votes and polled 153,544 popular votes (43.1 percent); Adams had 84 and 108,740 (30.5 percent); Crawford had 41 and 46,618 (13.1 percent), and Clay had 37 votes and 47,136 (13.2 percent). (John C. Calhoun had a clear majority for the vice presidency.)

Because no one enjoyed a majority of electoral votes, the election was thrown into the House of Representative. As required under the Constitution, the House choose from the top three candidates, eliminating Clay, who’d come in fourth in electoral votes. The states that were up for grabs included Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio, which Clay had won, and the closely divided states of Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and New Jersey. Jackson seemed likely to win since he only needed the votes of two states in addition to those he had carried in the election. Adams, in contrast, needed six of the seven available states in addition to the six New England states he already had plus New York. In the end Adams won; according to Jackson and his supporters, Adams achieved victory by entering into a Corrupt Bargain with Clay, promising him the post of secretary of state in exchange for his support. Clay as Speaker of the House had the influence over congressional members to decide the outcome of the vote.

The position of secretary of state was at the time considered a stepping stone to the presidency; the last four secretaries of states in the country’s short history had risen to the presidency. The agreement was favorable to both parties; Adams would immediately get the presidency, and Clay would be the next in line. Clay a “typical Western gambler” gambled with his position as Speaker, and publicly supported Adams. Clay later wrote that Adams “was the best choice that I could practically make.” Clay delivered four Western states to Adams, including the three states he had won in the election: Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri. Adams also allegedly made an agreement with Daniel Webster to gain the vote of Maryland in exchange for the post of minister to Great Britain, but the appointment was never tendered. Adams was elected president by a vote of 13 to 11 states on the first ballot. (States voting for president in the House of Representatives vote as a group.)

Andrew Jackson vehemently opposed Clay, and the deal made with Adams that had cost him the election. It was a hatred that would resonate with Jackson until his death in 1845. Jackson swore he would do everything he could to thwart Clay’s presidential ambitions.

Jackson teamed up with John C. Calhoun, and William Crawford to create a Southern-Western axis in opposition to Clay. Clay nonetheless succeeded in lining up broad support for his nomination as secretary of state, but the “violent” friends of his enemies–Calhoun, Crawford and Jackson–remained opposed to his appointment. Clay persisted and his supporters argued that the West with a population of 3 million deserved representation, as they had not yet had a president or even a high level cabinet official. On February 17 Clay accepted President-Elect Adams’s offer of the position of secretary of state. The nomination increased Jackson’s fury. Fulminating, he raged: “So you see the Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive thirty pieces of silver. His end will be the same. Was there ever such a bare faced corruption in any other country before?”

After Adams’s inauguration on March 4, 1825 the president sent in three appointments for the Senate’s approval; at the top of the list was Clay’s nomination. Adams originally wanted to keep the Monroe Administration’s cabinet except for the admission of Clay, but Jackson’s opposition sabotaged Adams’s plan. When Clay’s nomination came up in the Senate, he believed that there would be little opposition to his appointment, with a maximum of 3 or 4 votes against him. He was shocked when 14 out of the 41 senators voted against him, thanks to Jackson’s opposition.

John Branch of North Carolina, voting against Clay, became the only senator to speak out in defense of his vote. He stated he opposed the nomination because of the “suspicion” of alleged wrong-doing. Jackson and two of his close partisans headed the campaign against Clay along with other Jackson followers who would go on to form the new Democratic Party. As Adams noted in his diary, “This was the first act of opposition from the stump which is to be carried on against the Administration under the banners of General Jackson.” The only Jackson follower that voted for Clay was Martin Van Buren, the leader in the Congress. On March 6 Clay resigned from his position in Congress and the next day signed his commission and was sworn in as secretary of state on March 8, 1825, amid a controversy that would haunt the one-term administration.

In the two elections–1824 and 2004–the losing presidential candidates in the Senate led the opposition to the appointment of a new secretary of state. In 1825 it was Andrew Jackson; this year it was John Kerry. In both cases the secretary of state faced questions that raised doubts about their character.

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