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Reflections on Unite Here's boycott
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5/27/2015 at 8:07:44 PM GMT
Posts: 1
Reflections on Unite Here's boycott

Dear Friends,

I am writing to express my personal thoughts on the current situation with our annual meeting. They are not necessarily the opinions of the American Folklore Society executive board or of the Society as a whole. I do think, however, that I speak for the whole board in expressing our support for the Westin workers to vote on union membership in an atmosphere free of coercion.

For me, one of the greatest frustrations of the situation has been the lack of information from the union. One might think that when a union asks a society such as ours to support a boycott (especially one with potentially ruinous financial consequences) that they would be more than eager to educate us about their cause, and especially about the issues under dispute. The hotel is apparently willing to comply with the National Labor Relations Board election procedures for a vote on unionization. Then specifically what principle are we being asked to support in the boycott? Apparently the conflict is over the method of voting: "card check” vs. secret ballot. The secret ballot is the procedure still endorsed by the NLRB and apparently favored by the majority of Americans (though not necessarily the majority of unions). I understand that there are legitimate concerns about whether the NLRB procedures favor the employer. On the other hand, I also understand why many worry about the potential pre-empting of the secret ballot in the card check system. Critics also charge that card check potentially allows a union to pressure undecided workers, a point of view that idealistically I would prefer not to believe.

I stand ready to be convinced about the merits of card check over the secret ballot. However, the actions of UniteHere! give me pause. In the past weeks the union has called our members (and their supervisors) and shown up unexpectedly at their places of employment, at conferences and at their public lectures. Rather than initiate a productive dialogue, they have badgered or screamed at our members and indulged in name-calling. Some of the people who have been harassed are members of unions themselves or come from union families. Is this the union’s standard method of operation? The hotel workers themselves deserve more mature and articulate union representation.

I believe that each AFS member should make up her or his own mind about whether to attend the AFS meeting or stay in the conference hotel. However, UniteHere! needs to open up an honest, informative, and respectful dialogue with the American Folklore Society, and needs to stop harassing our members. AFS will continue to urge the hotel and the union to start talking to each other and find common ground so that hotel workers can make their own choices.


Michael Ann Williams

President, American Folklore Society

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