Fwd: Re: Advice of SF Labor Lawyer on AAA Contract
- ----- Forwarded message from Kamala Visweswaran <kvis@...> -----
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 2004 18:17:18 -0500
From: Kamala Visweswaran <kvis@...>
Reply-To: Kamala Visweswaran <kvis@...>
Subject: Re: Advice of SF Labor Lawyer on AAA Contract
To: Hugh Gusterson <guster@...>, Erica James <ejames@...>,
cwalley@..., jjacjkson@..., jhowe@..., dumit@...,
mfischer@..., ssly@..., ssilbey@..., paxson@..., sgh2@...,
phaney@..., anthro-general@..., Paulect69@...,
I hestitate to share the following after the fact, but do so at the urging
of others who, like yourselves, were not be knowledgeable about one of the
options I believe the AAA Executive Board did not have time to fully
consider. I do not know how strict yesterday's Oct 22 deadline was, but if
there was any flexibility, I think the AAA Executive Board might have made
more time to consider the information I provided Liz Brumfiel and Bill
Davis with yesterday afternoon.
1) On Oct. 21 I contacted a nationally reknowned and internationally known
labor lawyer I have worked for the last 12 months on two different (labor
and human rights) cases. This lawyer has argued labor cases in the Supreme
Court and won Public Interest Law's Litigator of the year Award for his
role as one of the lead attorneys in the landmark Doe v. Gap sweatshops case.
2) On the morning of Oct. 23 the laywer e-mailed back to say that he could
work in a quick conference call to consult on this matter. I phoned and
left messages with both Liz Brumfiel and Bill Davis asking whether there
was any chance that they could join the call; I also e-mailed them and let
them know that this lawyer thought AAA could minimize financial loss if the
contract was broken. At about 12:45 CST I spoke with the lawyer who said
(based on the AAA description of the terms of contract):
-- San Francisco is a pro-labor town, and in the event of any litigation,
the verdict would likely be in favor of labor.
-- He thought we could make a case for breaking the contract based on a)
newspaper reports of spotty service and most importantly b) that any
guest's implicit contract with a hotel is based on the idea that a
peaceful, stress-free environment would be provided. The presence of noisy
picketers in a labor dispute which the hotel had escalated from a strike
into a lockout severely compromises the hotel's ability to provide this
--The lawyer however, advised us to negotiate a "walkout fee" based on the
AAA being able to show that a majority of its members would stay away from
the venue, so that the hotel would not make anywhere close to 1.2 million.
By negotiating a walkaway fee of perhaps $100,000 with a month remaining
for the scheduled meetings, the hotel would have a chance to recoup its
bookings from normal tourism. This lawyer has successfully negotiated such
a walkway fee in another hotel labor dispute a couple of years ago. He
offered his services at a reasonable fee to serve as outside counsel, and
stressed that he would need to read the contract before making a clear
3) I communicated the results of this conversation to Liz Brumfiel and Bill
Davis at about 1:45/2 pm CST. After I sent this msg, I noticed that I had
received at 1:41 an e-mail from Liz Brumfiel in response to the first msg.
thanking me for providing the contact with the lawyer which she thought
would be useful in case of a suit. I received no response from the second,
or third e-mails sent to her and Bill Davis regarding the specifics of the
The letter the AAA sent out yesterday at 5: 44 pm EST makes it seem as if
there were no reasonable legal alternatives to an implied suit by the
Hilton. In fact, it seems clear that with a skilled labor lawyer, the
Hilton would have been on the defensive, the AAA could've negotiated a
minimal walkout fee that could have been absorbed by raising the membership
fee by $5-$10 for one year, and our principles would have been intact.
Instead, not only has the AAA decided to give the Hilton its business, but
we have been made complicit with its union-busting tactics.
I wish I had been able to reach this lawyer in a more timely fashion. While
it is possible the AAA made a bad decision, it may also be the case that it
made the best decision based on the information it had. It is quite
possible the rest of the AAA Executive Board did not know alternate legal
advice was available, and/or that Liz and Bill didn't have enough time to
deliberate on this, and/or that the deadline of October 22 had some legal
implication with the Hilton of which I'm unaware. So this e-mail should not
be construed as criticism of either Liz or Bill, to whom I will forward
this e-mail. Given the fact that the AAA has now been set for dates in
December (again at the convenience of the Hilton, and not that of the AAA),
I am not sure whether it is feasible to revisit the decision that the AAA
has reached with much thought and deliberation, but perhaps without
adequate proactive legal advice. So I wanted to share this with those of
you who have been following the issue, in case any of you think it makes
sense to pursue this further with the AAA Executive Board.
If so, I will be happy to share the e-mails I sent to Liz Brumfiel and
Bill Davis if appropriate; and also to put you directly in touch with this
labor lawyer who has impeccable integrity and is more than willing to help
if we ask him to.
With best wishes,
----- End forwarded message -----
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