American Historical Association in the hot seat

August 27, 2009

I just got wind of this via the H-World listserv, but there has been a healthy debate going on over at H-Labor for a couple weeks. The short story is, the American Historical Assocation chose the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego as the location for its 2010 annual convention. Problem is, that particular hotel is the site of a longstanding labor dispute and is boycotted by the San Diego LGBT community for its owner’s role as a principal funder of the Prop 8 campaign.

“I have a panel accepted at the AHA in San Diego but neither I nor my panel will cross a picket line,” the professor who posted the notice to H-World says. Will be very interesting to see how many folks follow suit and if the AHA ends up moving the convention (I wouldn’t bet on that happening).

The AHA Executive Director, Arnita Jones, clarifies the contract situation:

Over the years the AHA has learned that its agreements with its hotels matter. They must be signed several years in advance to ensure competitive rates needed by historians and those looking for work as historians. Once signed, a contract cannot be cancelled without financial penalty, a penalty that increases substantially the closer to the group’s meeting dates. Moreover, a cancelled contract with the Manchester Grand Hyatt would only result in enriching the owner of the hotel being boycotted, pure profit for him.

Interestingly, Jones’ response goes on to address the LGBT issues but avoids discussing the labor dispute in any form.

Without knowing anything beyond the UNITE-HERE posting and the discussion at H-Labor, it seems to me that the best outcome would be for the AHA to hold the convention at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, but for attendees to avoid crossing picket lines and hold their actual panels outside the hotel. AHA avoids having to breach contract and pay a massive fine; Manchester Grand Hyatt gets negative publicity; AHA learns a lesson about selecting its hotel contracts more carefully.

Flying Whale


One comment

  1. I like your suggested solution. If I was a historian, that would be an outcome I could live with.

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