Academic, Labor

Philippe Bourgois has written a letter to the Anthropology community, asking them to boycott the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta where the AAA has moved its annual meeting:

Dear Anthropologists,

Please do not go to Atlanta for the sake of the workers locked out of the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco and for the sake of hotel service workers throughout the country. The Hilton Hotel in San Francisco has locked its workers out for asking for basic necessities that are common sense in the rest of the industrialized world and should be considered a basic human right: decent minimum wages and health benefits… (for full-time employees!) The conference in Atlanta is at a non-union Hilton Hotel. All sections of the American Anthropological Association should cancel their sessions in Atlanta. The Hilton Hotel and the Hilton Company will benefit financially and symbolically by having anthropologists attend their hotel in Atlanta.

By patronizing any Hilton Hotel while its workers are locked out in San Francisco (or anywhere else in the world or the country) we would be behaving exactly like United Fruit Company executives in Central America and multinational executives throughout the world who break the backs of unions by simply switching production to non-union plantations/sweatshops in neighboring countries when one of its plantations/sweatshops tries to unionize. That is unconscionably abusive and is much more important than any of our anthropology-meeting-related concerns. We should have the decency and humility to realize that whatever we have to say at our academic meetings can wait for another year or six months for the sake of hotel workers. Service workers have a chance of winning this fight for their rights because hotels, unlike plantations and sweatshops, have to stay put. The service workers union will lose if organizations like the AAA move around the country at the will of the Company to whichever city has the cheapest wage and most abusive working conditions. This is not a complicated issue. It should be easy for anthropologists with a global perspective to understand the stakes.

Philippe Bourgois, Professor
Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine
University of California, San Francisco

As the 4,000 locked out workers in California go on unemployment pay, their worker’s strike funds are running out. Please donate some money to help the workers through the holiday season. You can donate online directly to the union’s solidarity fund.”

Or, if you prefer, to the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) worker hardship fund.”

CLUE is also looking for a few thousand turkeys to help the workers through the holiday season.

AAAUnite’s sister organization,, is keeping a running tally of AAA member donations. If you feel comfortable, please email them with the amount of your contribution: [email protected].

AAAUnite is also organizing alternative conference panels and actions in support of the workers, in the Bay Area, over the November 17th weekend that the AAA was originally scheduled for. You can keep up to date on these activities via the wiki.

See earlier posts on the AAA and the worker’s strike here, here, and here. You can also visit the AAAUnite blog.