A UNITE-HERE! organizer has been sending award-winning and other distinguished scholars in the NCA letters asking them to honor the boycott, not only because of the involvement of Manchester in funding an anti-gay ballot initiative, but also because the union has established relationships with the hyper-exploited workers at the hotel. Bringing the two causes together is a principled act and one that is fairly unprecedented in the US labor scene.
However, according to a credible source, NCA Executive Director Roger Smitter has been writing these same distinguished scholars, using the following language:
“We regret that you have been targeted by Unite Here! to receive its appeal to boycott the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the site of the NCA convention and the 2008 Awards ceremony. Unite Here! has been sending essentially the same message to persons who names have appeared on our website. This includes the not only you but also publishers who will be exhibiting at the 2008 convention and leaders in our governance.
In brief, Unite Here! is using a California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage as a wedge to advance its own agenda with the Hyatt Hotel. Doug Manchester, one of the owners of the hotel, contributed money to the ballot initiative. “
It is very strange that contacting NCA members, leaders, and affiliated publishers seems in this passage to be somehow inappropriate or malign. We are communication scholars. Really.
The main thing, though, is that this passage is an ugly bit of union-busting rhetoric. It represents UNITE-HERE’s efforts as “targeting” scholars (and not in the good way that we rhetoricians sometimes refer to as “the target audience”). On this analysis, any attempt to persuade distinguished scholars in the field would be aggressive and inappropriate. The main charge, that UNITE-HERE is “using” the gay rights issue to promote its agenda, is typical of anti-union discourse in the history of the US labor movement: Portray the labor movement as opportunistic outsiders taking advantage of workers, their allies, and the public at large.
One could just as easily say that the workers are using the lgbtq issue to establish ties to the union, or that the gay rights coalition is using the union to advance its agenda—the point being, these are causes in solidarity, not a matter of various interests using each other.
I urge my colleagues not to dismiss the joint glbtq/labor coalition’s boycott based on Mr. Smitter’s opportunistic, anti-union discourse. He is using UNITE-HERE as a scapegoat—much as effective movement organizers throughout history have been targeted for abuse–to deflect attention to the real issue at hand: whether to stand against bigotry and exploitation, or not.
From a colleague on the blogora
I’ve never posted to this blog before, but I truly am surprised at the discussion here so far.
Smitter’s letter is so problematic, it makes me sad. What’s the “wedge” and what’s the “agenda”? The ambiguity here is vital to his allegations. In addition, how can anyone claim that labor has nothing to do with the ballot initiative? As activists, we need only listen to the grassroots movement in San Diego that has build a coalition to include workers resisting exploitation, GLBT activists standing up against the funding of hate, and women fighting sexual discrimination. As academics, we need only read Judith Butler’s classic essay, “Merely Cultural” or dust off our Engels for anything he wrote about the family/gender.
As someone who was on food stamps in elementary school for a period of time because my father was on a strike, I’ve never crossed a picket line in my life. Saying “the show must go on” is not enough. There are a lot of actions people seem to be leaving out of this discussion:
* there is no excuse for a department to host a party that requires anyone to cross a picket line.
* there is no excuse for potential employers not to do interviews elsewhere.
* the grad student open house should be canceled or moved.
* the awards ceremony can and should be moved.
* people can stay elsewhere.
* asking for answers for vague union-baiting claims about “wedge” issues is the least rhetoric/communication scholars can do.
* NCA, Inc., needs to publicly affirm that it will make space to discuss how NCA members can have more of a voice about future venue choices.
* and I’m sure others have more ideas…
Phaedra Pezzullo, Associate Professor, Indiana University, Bloomington
SUMMARY OF PREVIOUS IDEAS FOR THOSE SYMPATHETIC WITH THE UNITE-HERE/LGBTQ BOYCOTT OF THE MANCHESTER HYATT:
1. NCA: follow the lead of other associations and move the conference.
2. Failing that, sympathetic individuals should book alternative lodging. The Holiday Inn Express is nearby and offers lodging at affordable rates. The Westin San Diego still had rooms the last I checked.
3. Sympathetic faculty should ask their department heads or chairs to move their department parties and other events.
4. Panel, workshop, preconference, and seminar participants and chairs can arrange in advance to hold the panels elsewhere. (If anyone has any ideas as to alternative spaces nearby, let me know)
5. Interviewers and interviewees should be in contact with one another in advance to arrange convenient alternative meeting places for job interviews. (Interviewers, I hope you will respect job candidates’ choices in this regard.)
6. Legislative Assembly sessions should be moved since numbers of delegates are likely to participate in the boycott, with negative impact on the democratic process.
7. Sympathetic leaders of divisions and caucuses should send an email to members urging their members to honor the boycott.
8. If you want to make a difference, call or email NCA Executive Director Roger Smitter: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: 202-464-4622.
9. Help to organize and attend any collective demonstrations or pickets at the Manchester Hyatt. (It might be interesting for people to hold their panels out of doors near the hotel.)
10. Get and wear t-shirts in support of UNITE-HERE and the glbtq community of San Diego. (Volunteers to organize this?)
11. If you are sympathetic, please forward to others (in your department, community, friendship network, caucus, division, and community) who may share this concern and to members of divisions and caucuses as you see fit.
12. Individuals, divisions, panel chairs, and other groups need to take care of most of this groundwork. I would appreciate it if members planning location shifts and protests would be in touch with me (email@example.com) regarding these plans so that we may coordinate them and announce them to others.
We are getting word from members all over that they plan to honor the boycott. A number of departments have moved or cancelled their parties. Several divisions are considering moving their sessions. Individuals are organizing t-shirt campaigns and local protests. Standing for justice often takes sacrifice, but in this case there are adequate alternatives that protect panelists and job candidates while honoring the boycott. I know that many of my colleagues eschew confrontation and are often squeamish about confronting power in deed or word when it is on our own doorsteps, and NCA is our home. But if you agree with the goals of the boycott, please be courageous, take part in a living lesson in social movement organizing, and stand with us.
NEW UNITE-HERE letter to Betsy Bach:
Thanks so much for your e-mail of August 10. We’ve been in and out of town since then, and have waited in order to respond as fully as possible.
We appreciate the efforts of NCA to address a broad range of LGBT issues at the conference. We also realize that it must be difficult at this distance to have a sense of how the boycott of Manchester Hyatt is playing out in San Diego.
We are concerned that the letter from Prof. Eadie should be given such weight. As an individual he is entitled to his opinion, but he is not an LGBT spokesperson, and he appears to be entirely unaware of the labor issues that are so important in the boycott.
On Labor Day, not a day when it is easy to get people to stay home from the beach, we attended a large demonstration outside of the Manchester Hyatt, led by the hotel workers union (HERE/UNITE), attended by women’s rights and immigrant rights groups and numerous supportive unions among others, with speakers who included highly respected state and local politicians as well as members of the clergy. We are attaching one of many articles in the San Diego Union Tribune that can indicate the degree of attention this boycott is receiving locally.
We have been made aware that a number of professors and even a member of your executive board, James Darsey, have said that they will not enter the Hyatt, and will only attend events at the Marriot next door. We are sure that many other members of NCA will want to honor the boycott when they have become aware of it and that the issue will create contention disruptive to the goals of the conference.
We have looked forward to our own participation, as scheduled presenters, in the convention. We cannot, however, patronize the Manchester Grand Hyatt. It would be absurd for us to offer a film and workshop on women’s activism in a venue that is being boycotted because women workers are being denied the most basic human treatment. If you wish us to speak and to run our workshop, it needs to be at another venue.
We strongly advise that the executive board move all activities out of Manchester Hyatt.
We hope this letter is helpful, and we send you best wishes for a successful conference,
NEW Letter from a longstanding NCA member:
Greetings! I am forwarding my pledge to boycott Manchester Hyatt to urge you to consider alternatives for NCA.
NCA has been consistently siding with profit against social justice and we need to call an end to this (Proposition 187 boycott in San Diego, and its history in setting up strong barriers to members’ political action as the result of NCA’s boycott of the ERA in the 1970s and early 1980s).
Perhaps we can get together in San Diego to join in an action group to pressure NCA to reform its hotel contracts. We also should move all of our Manchester events to alternative locations. We can start with our own sessions. We may also try to influence division by division throughout the entire NCA infrastructure.
WHY? The unprecedented coalition between labor and glbtq activists around the boycott of the Manchester Hyatt has resulted from the hotel’s hyper-exploitative labor practices that afflict a non-unionized workforce. These workers are behind the boycott: They can’t be hurt by it because they are already hurting. The lgbtq community is boycotting to raise awareness about Manchester’s significant financial support for a ballot proposition banning gay marriage. California has been on the leading edge of progressive reform on this issue and a ban there would seriously set the movement back. Together these groups have demonstrated at the hotel and are sustaining their boycott even after the election is over.
This study came as no surprise to me!
It resonates with my experience as a faculty member; although none of my male colleagues, Chair, or Dean is intentionally sexist, there are broader institution and cultural patterns that make some barriers to women’s accomplishments seem like common sense. The discussion of how women bear a disproportionate burden (as do faculty of color and queer faculty, in my view) of the service work at research universities, the perennial problem of work-family balance (because women, even professional women, still do 70% of housework and childrearing labor), and the significance of micropractices and inequities that most people would not automatically recognize as sexist are important lessons for faculty, administrators, and students. (At UT, there is no maternity leave–like the woman whose story appears below, women must “schedule” their pregnancies to coincide with research leaves–during which one is still required to do research–or semester breaks.) Read on!
‘Quiet Desperation’ of Academic Women
Interviews with 80 female faculty members at a research university – the largest qualitative study of its kind – have found that many women in careers are deeply frustrated by a system that they believe undervalues their work and denies them opportunities for a balanced life. While the study found some overt discrimination in the form of harassment or explicitly sexist remarks, many of the concerns involved more subtle “deeply entrenched inequities.”
While the study was conducted, with support from the National Science Foundation, at the University of California at Irvine, the report’s authors and most of those who were interviewed for the research state that they don’t believe the problems discussed are unique to Irvine. The women interviewed who had worked elsewhere or discussed such issues with colleagues elsewhere portrayed their concerns as entirely typical of what goes on at research universities. And the authors – also at Irvine – stress that they don’t view the campus as exceptional.
While some issues in the report mirror concerns raised in other venues (such as the difficulty for women in particular of balancing work and family responsibilities), others receive more attention here than elsewhere. For example, service responsibilities are seen as a significant source of both sexism (women receive more of the assignments) and career roadblocks (the service work doesn’t count for tenure).
Those interviewed in the report even go so far as to criticize the NSF program that sponsored the research because it also urged Irvine to create “equity” positions in which faculty members – typically women – helped to review searches to be sure that diverse pools and perspectives were being sought. “To paraphrase one participant who wished anonymity: ‘They’ll not get the next promotion, or the next raise. And it also made them lightening rods for all the frustration on campus that women are getting special treatment. So it was a perfect example of service that helps the institution but really hurts the individual.'”
The article, “Gender Equity in Academia: Bad News From the Trenches, and Some Possible Solutions,” appears in the new issue of Perspectives on Politics (abstract available here <http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=1881660> ). The authors are Kristen Monroe, a professor of political science and philosophy at Irvine and director of its Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality, along with three graduate students in political science at Irvine: Saba Ozyurt, Ted Wrigley and Amy Alexander.
The analysis opens with a review of the national statistics in which women’s gains in the graduate student population are gradually diminished as academics advance to first jobs, to tenure, and to senior positions. Most of the analysis focuses on summaries of the in-depth interviews conducts with the women at Irvine, who came from a range of disciplines and seniority levels. Here are some of the highlights:
Unintended bias and outdated attitudes: Many of the women in the study described a steady stream of comments, some of them ostensibly offering support, that suggested that the older men who made them didn’t really understand how to interact with women in a professional manner. These men generally had no clue that their attitudes were either patronizing, sexist or both, the report says. One woman is quoted as describing a job interview in a top department in which an African American scholar took her aside and said, “This is a great place for people like you and me, if you know what I mean, honey.” The report quoted the woman as noting the irony that “he simply did not realize that it might be as inappropriate to call a 26-year-old woman ‘honey’ as it would be to jovially slap a black man on the back and call him ‘boy.’ “
Devaluing positions once women hold them: At Irvine, as at most research universities, the last decade has seen a significant change in the number of women serving as committee chairs, department chairs, deans and administrators in a variety of capacities. And the women interviewed for the study praised this development, crediting women in various senior positions for being mentors or going to bat for their younger counterparts. But the women – across disciplines – described a pattern in which once a woman was named to a more senior position, others treated it as more service-oriented and less substantive. The paper dubs this trend “gender devaluation,” saying: “When a man is department chair, the position confers status, respect and power. When a woman becomes department chair, the power and status seems diminished.”
Service and gender: Those interviewed reported some protection for junior faculty women, but said that among the senior faculty ranks, women were picked disproportionately for service assignments, especially those that are time-consuming. Then those same women are criticized for not doing more research, and the theoretical credit awarded service is never to be found.
Family vs. career: As in similar reports, women reported intense pressure – well beyond that faced by their male colleagues – with regard to having children, raising them, and also caring for aging parents. Many women reported strong reluctance to take advantage of policy options that might be helpful, fearful of how they would appear to male colleagues, and women reported regret and some dismay over choices they made to avoid confronting colleagues with their needs for more flexibility. One woman interviewed described having a child this way: “I was determined that I would drop that baby on Friday, teach on Monday, and nobody would ever know. That’s what I had to do. That was just how I felt like life had to be. Indeed, my first child was born ten days after I submitted my final grades. I did have the summer off. I went back to teach in the fall, but by that September my first book was due at the publisher, and it all got done. That’s what one had to do. That’s what I felt. I was a competitive bitch, and that was what I felt I had to do in order to make as statement about who I was.” (She added that she took a different attitude with her second child’s arrival four years later.)
Activism vs. making it work: Generally, the women interviewed described the offices and services designed to help them as places that were focused on legal and technical issues, and given that many of their frustrations weren’t legal, they didn’t rely on these services. In addition, the women interviewed – citing in part a desire not to have their careers hurt – tended to focus on figuring out informal ways to deal with problems, rather than seeking policy changes. Women are “extremely adept at detecting the academy’s cues,” the study says. “Many feared backlash and retribution if they agitated openly for change.”
While these women themselves focused on individual solutions, the overall theme of the report – in considering how to improve the situation of women at research universities – is a call for much more flexibility. Career paths are needed, the report says, that do not presume that the quality of work is based on hours in the lab or office, or time to tenure, or time finishing various projects. In addition, the report calls on universities to assign tasks in a more gender-neutral way, so that service activities aren’t presumed female, and to credit work performed equally – even if women are more likely than men to do that work.
Asked for a reaction to the study, Irvine released a statement criticizing it. “Professor Monroe’s article draws attention to the persistence and toll of sex discrimination on women faculty. Unfortunately, the article cannot to be said to offer original insight into the promise and challenge of gender equity in higher education. The formulation of the problem overlooks research in a host of related issues, such as gender schemas, work-life balance, and leadership development among others,” the statement said.
The Irvine statement went on to cite progress for women on a number of fronts, noting that women on the campus hold such positions as vice chancellor of research and deans of the graduate division and of undergraduate education. Women account for 43 percent of assistant professors, 37 percent of associate professors, and 22 percent of full professors. Those figures are going up in science and technology fields too, Irvine noted, and women now are 37 percent of assistant professors, 31 percent of associate professors and 18 percent of full professors in those disciplines.
The statement added that “Professor Monroe does not appear to be informed about campus and university engagement with gender equity or for that matter family-friendly accommodation policies and procedures.”
In an interview (prior to when Irvine released its statement), Monroe said that she would be interested to see how the university responded and that she hoped it would be positive. She noted – as the reported noted – that many of the concerns expressed in the study didn’t have to do with official policies or programs, but with more subtle questions.
In her career she was helped by good advice she received early on from mentors. She was urged to agree to serve on one universitywide committee and one departmental committee and never more. She was also urged to work from home in the mornings, so she couldn’t be drafted into other meetings, and would always have focused time for research. Monroe said that as a political scientist, she had that option in a way that a lab scientist would not. While Monroe said she was able to have a family while succeeding in academe (in part because of choices her husband made), she said that talking to women about their choices was in many cases “heartbreaking.”
– Scott Jaschik
Stopping exploitation is more important than new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Just saying.
Writers dig in for a long battle
December 14, 2007 | Page 15
CINDY KAFFEN reports on the ongoing writers’ strike after produers walked out of negotiations.
LOSING THE battle of public opinion and faced with a near complete shutdown of television production and an unexpected display of solidarity by writers, negotiators for television and film production companies walked out of talks with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) December 8.
The media moguls went on the offensive after eight days of meetings in which their organization, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), rejected the WGA’s proposals on Internet streaming, refusing to increase the rate for downloads or to cover original material converted to new media.
Instead, AMPTP walked out with an ultimatum to the union–drop six of your demands, or we won’t return to discuss anything.
Among the points the employers found so offensive were WGA demands that would strengthen the union movement in Hollywood. One was to include reality television writers and animation writers (two areas where television production is booming) into the WGA’s jurisdiction.
Another was the union’s insistence on not having a no-strike clause in the new contract–which would allow the writers to act in solidarity when other unions find themselves having to strike for fair deals, as is widely expected of the Screen Actors Guild when its contract runs out at the end of June.
In a press statement conveniently released moments after walking out of the negotiating room–leading many to suspect that the walkout had been planned in advance–the AMPTP declared, “The WGA’s organizers are determined to advance their own political ideologies and personal agendas at the expense of working writers and every other working person who depends on our industry for their livelihoods.”
As if Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, who made over $28 million last year and is now laying off television production staff and crew members right before Christmas, is the one that really cares about working people!
Having announced the hiring of the high-priced crisis management firm Fabiani and Lehane (known in Washington, D.C., political circles as “the masters of disaster”), the industry bosses clearly hope to break the solidarity of the writers and their supporters among the other entertainment industry unions by attacking the competence and motivation of the Guild’s leadership.
Fabiani and Lehane are closely connected with the Democratic Party and worked for Bill Clinton’s administration. Other past clients include Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, and even the Screen Actors Guild in 2002. Apparently union-busting is now part of the firm’s expertise as well.
“It’s classic strike-breaking tactics,” striking writer Pat Mulvihill said. “They try to build up our hopes, and then walk out. They’re trying to force cracks in the union, and we fully expect them to do it again. Just like with the AMPTP statements that the union leadership is being unreasonable, and that the ‘below-the-line’ workers are getting shafted by us striking. It’s all about divide and conquer. But it’s not working.”