AAA On-line Survey Concerning this year's meeting
- ----- Forwarded message from AAA <members@...> -----
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 18:32:25 -0400
From: AAA <members@...>
Reply-To: AAA <rthomas@...>
Subject: AAA Annual Meeting and SF Hilton Hotel Labor Dispute
To: AAA Annual Meeting <rthomas@...>
October 19, 2004
To: 2004 Annual Meeting Registrants
From: Liz Brumfiel, President
Bill Davis, Executive Director
Subject: San Francisco Hilton Hotel Labor Dispute
This is to make you aware of a labor dispute involving the San Francisco Hilton
Hotel and its organized employees, and to seek your advice on behalf of the AAA
Executive Board relative to our scheduled 2004 Annual Meeting.
The AAA Executive Board is conducting an on-line survey to obtain your opinion
relative to the decision before it. To participate, please read the following
memo carefully prior to completing the survey. Because of the urgency of the
issue, please send your reply by Thursday, October 21, 2004 at 8:00 am Eastern
We recognize this is an extremely complex issue, and appreciate your reading the
memo carefully prior to replying.
SF Hilton Hotel Labor Dispute
The San Francisco Hilton Hotel and thirteen other hotels in San Francisco are
currently in a labor contract standoff with Local 2 of UNITE/HERE, the union
representing cooks, dishwashers, bellmen, servers, room cleaners and
switchboard operators. Union members struck the hotels several weeks ago and
subsequently have been locked out. There are currently picket lines at the
entrances to the Hilton, and there is every likelihood that contract
negotiations between the union and the multi-employer group representing the 14
hotels will not be settled by the time of AAA's Annual Meeting.
Understanding the discomfort that many members may have crossing picket lines,
AAA's Officers and staff have been working steadily over the past two weeks to
determine what possibilities might exist to move the meeting out of the Hilton,
and the likely consequences of doing so.
On Monday, October 18, AAA's Executive Board held a teleconference meeting,
during which Board members decided to solicit the views of potential meeting
attendees concerning our options.
AAA Contract with SF Hilton Hotel
The SF Hilton is the only hotel property in San Francisco able to accommodate
under a single roof, our meeting both in sleeping rooms and in function space.
AAA has had a signed a contract for the 2004 Annual Meeting with the San
Francisco Hilton since October 29, 1996. The contract provides that, absent
a failure on the part of Hilton to provide the services specified, AAA does not
have the right to cancel its meeting in the Hilton without facing exposure to
potential damages in excess of $1.2 million plus legal fees.
Our contract with the SF Hilton provides that, to the extent that the hotel is
unable to operate, meet its obligations and perform the services it is
contracted to perform, we have cause to sever our contract without suffering a
financial penalty. The hotel's management indicates that they have brought
employees in from other properties and the hotel is operating as normal. Union
representatives say that the hotel is not. Since the job action began,
conferences and events have continued to be held in the Hilton. To determine
the situation, we contacted representatives of other organizations that have
conducted meetings in the Hilton since the beginning of the labor dispute to
get their assessment of the Hilton's performance. Based on their reports, it
appears that the Hilton has provided adequate services to those organizations.
Thus, AAA cannot cancel its meeting in the Hilton without facing potential
damages in excess of $1.2 million plus legal fees.
Alternative Locations for the 2004 Annual Meeting
Despite these contract provisions, we have been exploring other potential
options for relocating the 2004 Annual Meeting to another property (outside San
Francisco) or rescheduling it to another time period. Unfortunately, the
requirements for AAA's Annual Meeting (sleeping rooms, meeting rooms, exhibit,
job placement and registration service space, general session space) make it an
unusually difficult meeting to site. In order to secure adequate space
sufficient to accommodate our meeting, we schedule and contract for that space
between 5 and 8 years in advance of the meeting. With only a month before the
meeting is scheduled to begin, finding any optional space to move the meeting
has been even more difficult.
Several potential alternatives have been explored. These included moving our
function space from the Hilton to other locations in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, the Moscone Convention Center is tied up with an auto show and
can't accommodate us. No other hotel property can be found which would
accommodate all our meeting room needs.
We explored other city venues for the 2004 Annual Meeting, including Orlando,
Atlanta, Chicago, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Jose. While we felt we should
consider all possibilities, moving the Annual Meeting to another city or to
totally different dates appears to be a completely impractical alternative at
this late date because many meeting registrants have already bought airline
tickets, would incur a financial loss in rebooking their tickets and likely
would nota be able to change their schedule of obligations on such short
The only possible alternative location within driving distance of the San
Francisco airport for the meeting is San Jose, CA. For those of you who don't
know the geography, San Jose is about 45 miles south of the San Francisco
airport. A combination of eight hotels within 3 miles of the San Jose
Convention Center could accommodate as many as 1,770 sleeping rooms each night
of our meeting. (We currently have a hold on 1,850 hotel rooms in San
Francisco.) A combination of the San Jose Convention Center, Civic Auditorium
and Parkside Hall (both adjacent to the Convention Center) and all available
meeting rooms at the Hilton Hotel and Crown Plaza hotel (a block from the
Convention Center) could probably accommodate our need for function space for
the scholarly program, general sessions, exhibit space, placement service and
business meetings. However, renting this space would cost AAA approximately
A final option would be to cancel the 2004 Annual Meeting completely.
If picket lines are still up at the San Francisco Hilton during our meeting,
there are really no good options for AAA. It appears likely that we will have
reduced attendance whether we conduct it in the SF Hilton or move it to San
Jose. If we have it at the Hilton, and there are picket lines around the
hotel, some potential attendees (numbers uncertain) may cancel their
attendance. If we move the meeting to San Jose at this late date, others may
At least five major considerations are likely to be involved in an Executive
Board decision on whether to hold the meeting at the Hilton as scheduled,
cancel the meeting or attempt to change its location to San Jose.
1. Logistical Considerations
After a year of planning, changing our meeting location with only four weeks
before the meeting starts will be a mammoth logistical undertaking. There will
be 450 sessions, 250 special events plus the exhibits program and placement
service to relocate, and once relocated, they will end up in at least 5
different locations. Sleeping rooms for over 4,500 people will have to be
secured, and it is likely that they would be in a minimum of 8 different hotels
in San Jose.
Since two of those hotels are three miles from the San Jose Convention Center,
shuttle bus transportation would have to be secured. Since the meeting program
is already at the printer, an addendum with newly assigned rooms will have to
be prepared. It is likely that every registered attendee (4,579 people have
registered thus far) will have to be contacted directly and walked through the
process of alternative arrangements.
On site in San Jose, it is likely there will be glitches and lots of confusion;
attendees will undoubtedly find it difficult to navigate the meeting; some
events will probably not occur; some individuals will not be able to get to
sessions they expected to attend; and things will certainly not go as smoothly
as attendees have come to expect from AAA.
2. Financial Risk
Another major consideration in moving our 2004 Annual Meeting is of course the
financial cost to AAA. According to a report from ConferenceDirect, the firm
that AAA contracts with to advise on site location and hotel contract
negotiation, the San Francisco Hilton will claim damages of $1,125,975 if we
cancel the contract with them. While that amount may be mitigated by certain
terms of the contract and Hilton's ability to resell some of its rooms, the
potential damages owed to Hilton would be very substantial.
Breaking other contracts with overflow hotels in San Francisco, according to
ConferenceDirect's calculations is likely to cost AAA an additional $66,379.
Renting function room space in San Jose is estimated at $100,000. Assuming the
cost of Shuttle Bus service in San Jose will be borne by the San Jose hotels
and Convention and Visitors Bureau, and that our costs can be held at about
current budget levels, the potential financial loss to AAA as a consequence of
a move to San Jose is calculated by ConferenceDirect is approximately $1.3
million not including legal fees.
3. Ethical and Economic Implications
Were we to move the meeting out of a hotel that is being struck by its
employees, many of our members would consider AAA to be on the right side of an
issue that is probably quite dear to their hearts. Over the course of the past
two weeks, we've engaged in several discussions with representatives of
UNITE/HERE in an attempt to identify ways that our members and/or the
Association could support the strike effort. The union's position is that the
only thing they want us to do is to cancel our meeting in the SF Hilton. The
media and public relations benefit to the union in our canceling the meeting is
perceived as being very significant.
Cancellation of our meeting at the Hilton would cause only limited economic loss
to the hotel for two reasons. First, under the terms of our contract, AAA does
not pay a fee for the use of function rooms. The meeting space in the hotel is
provided to AAA free of charge in order to get our sleeping room and food and
beverage business. Thus moving our meeting does not deny the hotel any income
for the rental of function room space.
Second, if we cancel our meeting at the SF Hilton, under the terms of our
contract, the Hotel will make a claim against AAA for recovery of anticipated
income from sleeping room and food and beverage business which is lost as a
consequence of our canceling the meeting. To the extent that the Hilton
succeeds in recovering from AAA any or all of the $1,125,975 in estimated
losses it incurs as a result of the contract cancellation, the hotel will not
suffer that loss. The loss would accrue to the AAA which would be forced to
compensate the Hilton for its lost income.
4. An Additional Consideration: The "Attrition" Clause
An additional, very important point should be made. There is no "attrition"
clause in our contract-which means that, as long as AAA does not cancel its
contract, it would not be liable if the Hilton didn't fill the rooms that we
have blocked off and if the Hilton did not receive its anticipated food,
beverage and other income. Under the terms of our contract with the SF Hilton,
individual members could exercise their own personal choices on whether to
maintain or cancel their sleeping room reservations at the Hilton and to use or
refrain from using the hotel's restaurant and cocktail lounge facilities
without exposing the Association to financial damages or loss, so long as AAA
does NOT cancel the location of its meeting.
5. Demonstrating Support for Striking Hotel Employees
We have attempted to identify ways in which, were we to keep our meeting in the
San Francisco Hilton, our members and/or the Association could provide help in
support of the strike effort. The union's position is that the only thing they
want to see us do is to cancel our meeting in the SF Hilton. They have been
unwilling to discuss any other possible actions that AAA or our members might
take to be of assistance or show support to the striking/locked out employee's
efforts. Clearly, the media and public relations benefit to the union in our
canceling the meeting is perceived as being so great that it is politically
unwise for them to discuss other possible assistance the AAA might provide.
A number of suggestions have been put forth by AAA's Executive Board and
members, however, of ways that individual members and the Association as a
whole might demonstrate support for striking hotel employees short of canceling
or moving our meeting from the SF Hilton Hotel. These include:
1. Sending a letter to the hotel requesting they settle the strike before we
arrive and letting the hotel know that we support striking/locked out
2. Sending a letter to the president of UNITE/HERE to let him know that we have
a contract with the Hilton and have arranged a schedule with several thousands
of people that we cannot now change, but which expresses support for the
workers on strike and requests permission for AAA members and visitors to cross
the picket line.
3. Inviting the union to address our annual business meeting to explain their
4. Providing a table for the union in our conference registration area for the
distribution of information on their situation.
5. Inviting the union to our receptions to explain the situation and to collect
funds to support the workers.
6. Conducting the organized session on the anthropology of unions (organized by
Paul Durrenberger) to meet on the sidewalk across the street from the hotel or
on the picket line rather than cross it and offer the union an opportunity for
some supportive press coverage.
7. Securing a parade permit from the City of San Francisco and organizing a
parade from the hotel to Union Square and a demonstration in Union Square.
8. Conducting a teach-in at the hotel or in an adjacent location which members
of AAA would be asked to participate in and /or attend.
9. Organizing and conducting an effort to collect financial contributions from
AAA members to support union members.
Express Your Opinion
The AAA Executive Board is conducting an on-line survey to obtain your opinion
relative to the decision before them. To participate in this survey, please
click on the following link (or copy and paste the URL into your browser
Thank you very much for participating in this survey.
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