Academic, Labor

Being a member of the American Anthropological Association is usually fairly boring. Sure, there are your occasional controversies, such as when Chagnon and Tierney were accused of spreading disease in the Amazon for research purposes. But that didn’t really affect the organization as a whole, not the way this does.

Every year the AAA hosts an annual conference. It is a huge meat market, where everyone struts their stuff, applies for jobs, catches up with colleagues in other departments, and buys books. (Oh, and some academic discussion is supposed to happen as well, although I’ve rarely seen that…) This year, however, the AAA had the misfortune of timing the event during one of the biggest hotel workers strikes in recent history, in San Francisco. (The official union site is here. More on LaborLog here.)

Unite march

So what does the AAA decide to do in response to member’s refusal to cross a picket line? They broker a deal with Hilton management to move the conference to a non-union Hilton hotel in Atlanta! Needless to say, this doesn’t strike many AAA members as particularly ethnical, to say the least.

Robert O’Brien, who has been at the forefront of organizing action to get the AAA to suport UNITE, has started a blog to keep people abreast of recent developments in this fast moving controversy. The latest plan is to organize an unofficial counter-event/teach-in in SF on the original planned dates. Please help Rob out by spreading the word, linking to his site, etc.

Here is an excerpt from his latest post:

None of the progressive members of the AAA are fooled by the Hilton’s crass attempt to subvert the union’s efforts and help the AAA save face. As someone said in a recent email we should all understand that this does not resolve the basic problem of the Hilton Corporation locking out its workers in San Francisco and refusing to negotiate with their union. It only moves AAA to another Hilton site so all of us, Hilton and AAA can continue business as usual. It brings no pressure to bear on Hilton to let its employees return to work and negotiate with their union. It changes cosmetics, not realities.” In effect, we are taking a very long walk through the picket lines if we take this option.