Bar association and boycott leader dispute hotel change
Annual conference moves to Long Beach
Published Thursday, 14-Jan-2010 in issue 1151
The State Bar Association of California moved its 2011 annual meeting from the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego to an unspecified location in Long Beach. Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate believes the move is because of his organization’s boycott against the hotel, but the association thinks otherwise.
“When the state bar originally booked the Hyatt Manchester in San Diego for the 2011 meeting, competition for convention sites was very stiff and there was no availability at facilities throughout the state,” Diane Curtis, Public Information Officer for the association, said and added that the organization was looking for dates in September and October, and the Manchester Grand Hyatt’s availability was open in August.
“As a result of the current economy and bottoming out of the convention market, we were able to obtain September dates in Long Beach,” Curtis said. “This action is being taken on the basis of the bar’s business and convention needs and to make the convention as successful as possible.”
The State Bar of California has held three annual meetings at the Manchester Grand Hyatt since the hotel opened. Curtis did not confirm a connection between the Hyatt and the state bar’s decision to move, but some do not believe dates are the reason why the move is taking place.
“When they were there last summer it was hell,” Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate said. Karger’s organization, along with labor union UNITE HERE Local 30, are two organizations at the forefront of the boycott and protested the annual meeting last summer.
Californians Against Hate boycott of Manchester Grand Hyatt is the result of owner Doug Manchester’s donation of $125,000 to the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign in 2008, and because of onerous working conditions for Hyatt staff, according to Karger.
“There were demonstrations, it had been nine or ten months of build up, but various groups within the organization including the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Beverly Hills Bar Association and a GLBT organization within the State Bar Association of California who voted and announced they would not attend the convention if it took place at the Manchester Grand Hyatt,” Karger said.
Karger speculated the state bar association would have relocated the meeting last summer if not for the cost associated with such a move.
“Most lawyers are pretty progressive, the bar association has always been pretty progressive, so it’s a direct conflict,” Karger said.
“They’re saying it’s a space consideration, but San Diego is a lot bigger than Long Beach,” Karger continued.
The state bar association’s departure also represents a loss in revenue for the city. Approximately 2,400 members of the association attend the annual meeting.
“They’ve taken the smart route and are leaving Manchester’s hotel, but unfortunately they are leaving San Diego as well,” Karger said. “With that loss, millions of dollars are lost to the city. When you have 5,000 attorneys and their families coming here, they eat out, shop and spend money.”
Not everyone in the GLBT community supports the boycott’s efforts.
“The way we are going to change people’s hearts and minds is by building bridges and educating people, not trying to destroy businesses and reputations with motives that are not talked about,” Chair of 15 Minutes, a media and public relations agency, Howard Bragman, wrote in a ‘Guest Commentary,’ titled ‘Speaking for myself,’ in the Gay and Lesbian Times on Sept. 24. Bragman, an openly-gay public relations executive, was Manchester’s spokesman to the GLBT community and was working to repair Manchester’s relationship with the community.
“If we, as a gay community and as activists, remain incapable of recognizing when we have achieved a victory, continue to waste time, energy and resources on negative campaigns and initiatives against someone that has already become an ally, we won’t win because we’ll be mired in the futility of preaching to the converted when we should be moving on to other efforts and dialogues,” Bragman said.
Bragman recognized the success and called for an end to the boycott.
“Doug Manchester acknowledged that his contribution to ‘Yes on 8’ two years ago was a mistake, apologized, vowed never to donate to an anti-gay marriage initiative again, and pledged a total of $125,000 to GLBT causes,” Bragman said. “In my mind this is a ‘win’ for our community; using the boycott to advance their personal and professional goals.”
Bragman said the Manchester Grand Hyatt staff has a diverse employee population including GLBT individuals and are some of the happiest and best paid employees in San Diego.
“These workers are the real victims of the boycott,” Bragman said. “The front desk clerks and room attendants [are] the very people the union is purporting to help. They are not being helped; they risk losing hours and money because of this boycott.”
Bragman refused to comment on the current situation.
As of November 2009, the State Bar Association of California boasts more than 222,595 members.
Curtis said the four cities in California that are capable of handling the annual meeting are San Diego, Anaheim, Long Beach and Monterey. Curtis added the association is renegotiating its contract with Hyatt for a return in 2014 and the association is not looking for nay other venues in San Diego. This year’s conference will take place Sept. 23 through 26 in Monterey, California.