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2015 Annual Meeting: News and Announcements Concerning UNITE HERE and the Westin Long Beach

A labor dispute developed at the site of the 2015 Annual Meeting in the six months prior to the meeting. The situation evolved gradually over those six months; the links below provide more detailed, chronological information.

Summary:

In February 2015, UNITE HERE!, a labor organization representing hospitality-industry workers, primarily hotel housekeeping and food service employees, initiated demonstrations at the Westin Long Beach, demanding that Westin management demonstrate respect for its non-unionized workers as they took time to decide whether to unionize; the Westin's position was that they supported employees' right to organize by secret ballot without fear of intimidation or reprisal. Though the union never publicly articulated any other explicit demands, by April it appeared that the issue concerned the method of voting, with each side claiming that the other's system would be likely to lead to coercion or abuse.

Because the Society faced severe financial penalties for breaking its contract with the Westin, in mid-March the AFS Executive Board voted:

  • to proceed with the meeting at the Westin,
  • to urge both sides to work towards a resolution that would support the workers' rights to organize without intimidation,
  • to seek more protection in future contracts, using model protective language for event contracts provided by UNITE HERE!,
  • and to give preference to unionized hotels for future meetings.

Over the spring and summer, AFS staff investigated options for alternative venues and ways of integrating labor issues into the meeting program, most of which proved impossible or impracticable, and concentrated on communicating with all the parties, including Westin management and ownership, union and local organizers, other professional associations, and especially AFS members and meeting participants.

On October 14, in cooperation with UNITE HERE!, the AFS Executive Board agreed to send a written statement of its position to Utah Retirement System, a chief investor in the Westin Long Beach, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. The letters, delivered October 15, reaffirmed that AFS will "incorporate, whenever possible, UNITE HERE!'s recommended protective language in contracts for our annual meetings" and "give preference to unionized hotels in our annual meeting site searches for 2018 and beyond." The letters stated that "We also believe very strongly that hotel workers should have the right to an environment free of all types of abuse, and the right to a reporting process for such incidents that is free of retaliation."

AFS members, some of whom reported harassing phone calls or visits from union workers in the spring, weighed what were often conflicting loyalties. Ultimately, 13% of those who had registered or submitted presentations withdrew from the meeting (in most years, about 6% withdraw because of schedule conflicts, lack of funds, etc.). University receptions and other proposed social events were withdrawn, and five panels chose to meet off-site.

In the days before the meeting, the AFS staff and members of the Cultural Diversity Committee successfully negotiated the participation of representatives from UNITE HERE! and Long Beach hotel workers in an off-site session.

UNITE HERE! did not picket the Westin for the run of the conference.

By final count, 541 attended the annual meeting, filling 80% of the conference block; AFS incurred no financial penalties, and registration revenue roughly covered onsite costs.

 

November 19, 2015

Report on the measurable impact of the labor dispute and the results of surveys of participants and panel chairs.

October 8, 2015
The Cultural Diversity Committee will be holding two panel sessions and an open forum at the Long Beach Public Library on...

September 8, 2015

Westin General Manager Responds to Lawsuit
AFS has asked Westin management for more information concerning the class action lawsuit brought on behalf of Westin employees (see August 31). General Manager Ken Pilgrim denies the allegations of the suit, but declined to comment further on this case that has not yet come to trial.

August 31, 2015

Westin employees have filed a class-action suit claiming that the hotel has not paid for all hours worked or provided rest breaks. See Andrew Edwards, "Lawsuit alleges Long Beach hotel failed to pay full wages to workers," Press-Telegram (August 18, 2015), http://www.presstelegram.com/general-news/20150818/lawsuit-alleges-long-beach-hotel-failed-to-pay-full-wages-to-workers

July 29, 2015

Message sent by AFS executive director Timothy Lloyd to members and annual meeting registrants on July 29, 2015.

May 28, 2015

AFS Review: Answers to Five Common Questions about Westin Long Beach and UNITE HERE
AFS member Dave Stanley of Salt Lake City sent the questions below to the AFS office. With his permission, we are posting his questions and our responses for interested members.

May 27, 2015

AFS Members Reflect on Meeting at the Westin Long Beach
Public discussion of the issues associated with meeting at the Westin Long Beach has been mostly limited to Publore, but has now started also in the 2015 Annual Meeting Forum and in comments on Westin news.

May 26, 2015

AFS Executive Director Reaches Out to UNITE HERE
On May 22, Tim Lloyd, AFS executive director, wrote Tom Walsh, UNITE HERE Local 11 president, "with an open hand and a question..."

May 15, 2015

AFS Review: Behind the Dispute over Union Election Methods Affecting 2015 Annual Meeting
A summary of the primary point of contention behind the union demonstration—card-check vs. secret-ballot elections—with links for further reading.

April 23, 2015

Message sent by AFS president Michael Ann Williams and executive director Timothy Lloyd to members and annual meeting registrants on April 24, 2015.

April 23, 2015

UNITE HERE Provides Model Protective Language for Hotel Contracts
When negotiating future annual meetings, AFS will use the "model protective language for event contracts" recommended by UNITE HERE.

April 23, 2015

Westin Management Issues Position Statement
Click here to read the general manager's letter to the AFS Executive Board.

April 23, 2015

UNITE HERE Website Addresses Westin Long Beach and AFS Annual Meeting
Local 11's "So-Cal Travel Alerts" page explains the origins of the demonstration and the current situation from the union's point of view.

April 22, 2015

In its messages to our members, UNITE HERE Local 11 suggests that AFS should respond to the Westin dispute by moving...

April 6, 2015

UniteHere, the labor union that is demonstrating in front of the Westin Long Beach, is contacting AFS members and associates...

March 14, 2015

AFS has recently learned that a demonstration by the UniteHere labor organization (which represents hospitality-industry ...

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