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by Joan Eisenstodt | March 26, 2018

Joan EisenstodtOur industry needs a united front on a number of important issues, as well as training in how to be activists. We aren't doing that except to some degree on one controversy -- the Marriott/Hilton commission cuts and how they impact the buying power of independent meeting professionals, who have formed Meeting Planners Unite. We haven't spoken up on pay equity, safety or risk for all of those in our industry.

On March 24, I attended the March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. I looked at how, in barely a month, students who likely had never planned an event of this size (sheesh, most of us haven't!) worked with others, formed coalitions on a specific issue, and garnered financial and human support for action.

I look at our industry, old by any standard, which has been unable to coalesce around much. Yes, there was widespread action on the New York taxes years ago, but other than that? The ADA passed nearly 30 years ago -- we're still not compliant! Even 9/11 and the more recent Las Vegas massacre didn't convince us as a big industry to look closely at safety precautions.

The commission issue has brought some of us together, yet the outrage clearly is not industrywide, and the hotels are cutting such payments and no doubt will continue to do so just as the airlines did. My hope is that we can come together for the greater good for a number of reasons:

• To help save the jobs of those who find themselves at risk of losing theirs because some third-party companies-- not all -- say, "We'll do your meeting for free."
• To deal with environmental issues impacting all of our industry. The Green Meeting Industry Council and the Events Industry Council are trying, but it's not industrywide without louder voices from hotel owners and management companies.
• To speak out about the impact that the deportation of Haitians, Salvadorans and others will have on the service economy.
• To make sure our voice is represented on #MeToo. There are too few stories making the industry headlines; we each know there are more, but somehow, it's pretty hush-hush.
• To address so many other things, including a cohesive message about the value of meetings and their impact on the lives of people and their performance in their jobs, not just the pure economic impact.

How can we do what students did and find a real voice for the entire value of this industry? How can we take energy that is used for one issue and then take Global Meetings Industry Day (April 12) and really have an impact? How can we be perceived differently by governments, by companies that cut training budgets, even our families?

Industry veteran Joan Eisenstodt, founded Washington, D.C.-based Eisenstodt Assoc. in 1981.