Colin Rorrie of MPI led a joint rebuke of
In February, a joint statement was issued by
the American Society of Association Executives, Meeting
Professionals International and the Professional Convention
Management Association condemning tactics used by Unite Here, the
hotel workers’ union.
The associations are concerned that the union, which is in
contract negotiations with several hotels in both Los Angeles and
San Francisco, is calling their meeting planner members and asking
them to honor the union’s boycott of the properties.
“The labor process is the vehicle for this to be solved, not
intimidation tactics,” said Colin Rorrie, Ph.D., CAE, president and
CEO of Dallas-based MPI.
The idea for the joint statement came from several hoteliers
who sit on MPI’s Chairman’s Advisory Board, which has only supplier
members. The board met during the association’s Professional
Education Congress in San Diego in January. Among those in
attendance were David Scypinski, senior vice president of industry
relations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide; Fred Shea,
vice president of sales for Hyatt Hotels Corp.; and Mike Beardsley,
senior vice president of global sales for Marriott
The action of the unions “really galvanized us,” said
Scypinski. “We have no problems with them saying, ‘Here’s what’s
happening’ in a nonbiased way. But they’re not telling our side of
Scypinski said he and his colleagues worry the union will
succeed in getting contracts in many major cities synched onto one
schedule. “This is the first time they’ve been thinking so
strategically,” he noted, “but we’re not going to let them do it if
we can [prevent it].” Scypinski added if the union ever gained the
power to declare a national strike, both the hotel and meetings
industries would be in serious trouble.
In San Francisco, Unite Here’s Local 2 has been without a
contract since last summer, and many workers were locked out of 14
hotels (including the Four Seasons, the Hyatt Regency and the
Sheraton Palace Hotel) last October and November, after which the
union called for a boycott of those properties. Meanwhile, Local 11
in Los Angeles has been without a contract since June 2004.
The union makes no apologies for its yearlong practice of
sending planners newsletters with updates on contracts around the
country. Unite Here has used MPI’s mailing list but now is making
phone calls as well.
“Our first newsletter was approved by MPI before it went out,”
said Jason Ortiz, research analyst and point person for planner
interaction for the New York City-based union. “Our outreach has
been an in-kind response to hundreds of inquiries we’ve had from
planners trying to learn our take on the situation in San Francisco
Support for the unions is coming from various quarters,
including former president Bill Clinton, who in March honored the
boycott in Los Angeles by refusing to attend a lunch at the Century
Some groups also have decided not to cross picket lines,
including the Organization of American Historians, which moved its
March convention from San Francisco to San Jose, Calif., and the
National Council of Teachers of English, which moved events from
the San Francisco Hilton to the city’s Moscone Center.
As for the negotiations, “it’s been slow going,” said a
spokesperson for Unite Here’s Local 2. “There’s still quite a
distance between the two sides.”