Update on Union Hotel Petition and Military Geography Fieldtrip Petition
Many thanks to those of you who supported our calls for a stronger AAG
hotel policy, and for non-discrimination in AAG fieldtrips and
are delighted to report that both petitions will have positive impacts
AAG practice. A brief summary of each resolution from the Denver
Meeting appears below.
Union Hotel Policy
We had petitioned the AAG for two changes in its existing union hotel
First, we wanted to institute a process that would require staff to
rationale for selecting any non-union hotel to Council for approval.
wanted staff to negotiate force majeure language into future hotel
this included both the contracts that the association had already
signed and the
ones it planned to negotiate in the future. (Our original petition
After much deliberation, Council passed the following resolution:
[On competitiveness:] The AAG will actively solicit and give preference
suitable unionized hotel in cities selected for the AAG annual meeting.
review, the AAG Executive Committee concludes that cost or other
indicate that a non-union hotel should be used in a city with a union
option, then the Executive Committee should detail the rationale for
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,
Council's power of oversight is not explicit in the resolution. Still,
represents a significant advance beyond last year's language.
The brief resolution on force majeure requires some explanation. The
for Boston 2008, signed earlier this year, includes force majeure
releases the AAG from the contract in the event of a strike, provided
of meeting attendees are unwilling to attend the conference (it is
this would be determined). In such a case, the AAG would be able to
from the hotel contract at any time. Though the 40% figure and the
last-minute withdrawal compare favorably to other associations' escape
the clause for strikes should be expanded to include labor disputes. As
seen in San Francisco, employer lockouts and boycotts can be just as
as strikes. But the association's agreement to "continue to negotiate,
possible strengthen" force majeure language is clearly a step forward.
It is important to understand the limits and potential of force
force majeure language eliminates the association's legal liability in
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.
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
However, these costs could be minimized through clear communications
with UNITE-HERE, which
vast majority of workers directly employed by hotels; the union would
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
***Communication with the union and among members will be especially
important as the AAG prepares
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
that restricted participation to U.S. citizens, Council passed the
“In keeping with the AAG’s efforts to promote the fair and equal
members, field trips organized by AAG members or specialty groups at
meetings will, as a rule, be open to all members. In instances where a
specialty group wishes to organize a field trip that explicitly
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.
council grants the exception, notice will be given in the AAG
with an explanation of the reason for the exception. The substance of
resolution shall be included in the annual call for field trip
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
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
Chris Niedt & Deborah Cowen