Sadly, one of my professional associations, the Association of American Law Schools, decided to go ahead with its annual meeting this weekend at San Francisco hotels despite a union boycott in place to support collective bargaining. Pro-union law professors have attempted to organize support for the hotel workforce and will hold a rally in San Francisco on Friday, January 7. (A website on the rally is now here.) In a frustratingly ineffective effort to gain support for the union (there were a few exceptions, thankfully) I sent the following letters out to colleagues at Santa Clara as well as the head of the AALS’ securities regulation group:
An end of term reminder that the AALS meeting this year is being held at a hotel that is under an official boycott by the union that represents its employees for failure to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. Hilton is owned by the giant private equity group Blackstone which posted a 13% increase in profits last year but is refusing their workforce a modest increase in pay and benefits. An informational picket line is possible (as was the case during the recent meetings of the African Studies Association in San Francisco) and I have asked my AALS section, Securities Law, to move the meeting to a neutral venue such as a local law school. The letter I sent to my section is below.
In light of our law school’s longstanding commitment to equity and social justice I hope you can find a way to express your support for the labor force of the hotels such as by boycotting the AALS meetings, writing a letter in support of the workers to the AALS, many of them first or second generation Americans earning a fraction of what lawyers or academics earn, and asking your sections or panels to move to another venue. My understanding is that San Francisco law schools are making space available for various events.
For more information including whether or not a picket line will be present at the hotel, see this union website:
Stephen F. Diamond
Associate Professor of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law
I appreciate your solicitation of member reactions to the situation at Hilton. I, for one, would not be willing to cross a picket line. My grandparents were lifelong trade unionists in San Francisco and in fact participated in the 1934 General Strike there. I was in the labor movement before law school and my experiences then had a lot to do with my decision to become a lawyer and law professor.
I had planned to attend AALS sessions this year but now have to reconsider. So I would hope that rescheduling at nearby law schools (we could likely accommodate some folks at SCU but that is about an hour south) or union friendly hotels is feasible. Otherwise I believe we should cancel the sessions in support of the collective bargaining process.
I would also suggest, however, contacting the union to find out the status of negotiations since January is a long ways away still and so there is always the possibility of a settlement.
Hope this is helpful. Please feel free to share my views as you see fit.