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CRIT-GEOG-FORUM  April 2005

CRIT-GEOG-FORUM April 2005

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Subject:

Update on Union Hotel Petition and Military Geography Fieldtrip Petition

From:

Nick Blomley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Nick Blomley <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 24 Apr 2005 15:09:07 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (157 lines)

Forwarded info.....

Update on Union Hotel Petition and Military Geography Fieldtrip Petition

Many thanks to those of you who supported our calls for a stronger AAG 
union
hotel policy, and for non-discrimination in AAG fieldtrips and 
activities. We
are delighted to report that both petitions will have positive impacts 
on future
AAG practice. A brief summary of each resolution from the Denver 
Business
Meeting appears below.

Union Hotel Policy

We had petitioned the AAG for two changes in its existing union hotel 
policy.
First, we wanted to institute a process that would require staff to 
submit its
rationale for selecting any non-union hotel to Council for approval. 
Second, we
wanted staff to negotiate force majeure language into future hotel 
contracts;
this included both the contracts that the association had already 
signed and the
ones it planned to negotiate in the future. (Our original petition 
language is
attached below.)

After much deliberation, Council passed the following resolution:

[On competitiveness:] The AAG will actively solicit and give preference 
to a
suitable unionized hotel in cities selected for the AAG annual meeting. 
If on
review, the AAG Executive Committee concludes that cost or other 
considerations
indicate that a non-union hotel should be used in a city with a union 
hotel
option, then the Executive Committee should detail the rationale for 
its choice
to the AAG Council and the AAG Business Meeting.

[On force majeure:] The AAG will continue to negotiate, and if
possible strengthen, existing force majeure language.

The language on competitiveness was similar to our suggested change, 
though the
Council's power of oversight is not explicit in the resolution. Still, 
it
represents a significant advance beyond last year's language.

The brief resolution on force majeure requires some explanation. The 
contract
for Boston 2008, signed earlier this year, includes force majeure 
language that
releases the AAG from the contract in the event of a strike, provided 
that 40%
of meeting attendees are unwilling to attend the conference (it is 
unclear how
this would be determined). In such a case, the AAG would be able to 
withdraw
from the hotel contract at any time. Though the 40% figure and the 
option for
last-minute withdrawal compare favorably to other associations' escape 
clauses,
the clause for strikes should be expanded to include labor disputes. As 
we have
seen in San Francisco, employer lockouts and boycotts can be just as 
disruptive
as strikes. But the association's agreement to "continue to negotiate, 
and if
possible strengthen" force majeure language is clearly a step forward.

It is important to understand the limits and potential of force 
majeure. Having
force majeure language eliminates the association's legal liability in 
the event
that they move the conference. On the other hand, there are "sunk costs"
that the association would lose if it chose to move at the last minute. 
Whether
these costs would outweigh the organizational and financial damage that
would result from not moving a conference (low attendance, liability 
for empty hotel rooms) is
debatable.
However, these costs could be minimized through clear communications 
with UNITE-HERE, which
represents the
vast majority of workers directly employed by hotels; the union would 
keep the
AAG apprised of upcoming labor actions, suggest ways to exert pressure
on contracted hotels; in the AAA case, UNITE-HERE secured an alternate 
venue in San Jose on short
notice, though the association eventually moved the conference to 
Atlanta to avoid legal
liability.

***Communication with the union and among members will be especially 
important as the AAG prepares
for next
year's conference in Chicago, where many hotel contracts expire in 
2006. We could very well be
walking into a labor dispute. During the coming year, we will need to 
keep a watchful eye on the
labor situation in Chicago and on the leadership's response to it. If a 
strike, lockout, or
boycott seems likely, we will post updates at www.neiu.edu/~scgsg and 
on the lists.***


Military Geography Fieldtrip Petition

In response to the petition on the Military Geography Specialty Group 
fieldtrip
that restricted participation to U.S. citizens, Council passed the 
following
resolution:

“In keeping with the AAG’s efforts to promote the fair and equal 
treatment of
members, field trips organized by AAG members or specialty groups at 
annual
meetings will, as a rule, be open to all members. In instances where a 
member or
specialty group wishes to organize a field trip that explicitly 
excludes any
group of AAG members, the organizer will petition the AAG council for an
exception to this policy by the date when field trip proposals are due. 
If
council grants the exception, notice will be given in the AAG 
newsletter, along
with an explanation of the reason for the exception. The substance of 
this
resolution shall be included in the annual call for field trip 
proposals that
appears in the AAG newsletter.”

This resolution recognizes the importance of the AAG ethics statement of
non-discrimination, while also leaving open the possibility for 
exceptions to be
handled on a case-to-case basis. This means that events might be 
planned in the
future that are exclusive in terms of participation, but ensures that 
there will
be some deliberation on the nature of exceptions that can proceed.

The success of our petitions is a good sign for the future of the 
Association. However, the value
of both depends on the Association's efforts to work according to the 
letter and spirit of their
resolutions. This means that we must continue to press the Association 
on these two issues, and on
the broader task of becoming a more politically engaged and responsible 
organization.

Chris Niedt & Deborah Cowen

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