Update on Labor Dispute Involving Unite Here Local 1 and Hyatt Regency Chicago


April 12, 2011—As noted in ongoing communications with SAA members, Unite Here Local 1 (a hospitality workers union) has been involved in a labor dispute with several Chicago-area hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Chicago, site of SAA’s 2011 Annual Meeting in August.  The union had called for a boycott of the hotels; no strike has been called.

Given the significant cost of cancelling the current hotel contract (amounting to as much as $685,000, or approximately 28% of SAA’s annual budget), as well as concerns associated with finding an appropriate alternative venue, the SAA Council voted unanimously on February 23 to proceed with plans to convene the 2011 Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, August 22 – 27.

Council members are very grateful to have received substantial and substantive member input into this issue. Member comments have helped the Council and the staff to consider the best way to approach the 2011 Annual Meeting. Many members have expressed a desire for SAA to take steps to avoid a similar problem in the future.  Be assured that the Council and staff will analyze the best ways in which to consider issues of social responsibility as the Society engages in negotiations and contracts for future conference venues.

Following is information that may be of interest to SAA members.

  • The SAA Council recognizes that its decision to hold the meeting as originally planned may have an impact on individual members’ decisions to attend the 2011 Annual Meeting.  We remain optimistic that the labor issue will be resolved before our conference commences. Unite Here Local 1 reached an agreement with the Hilton hotels in Chicago, and the contract was ratified by union members on March 4.  We have heard that settlement between the union and the Starwood hotels is imminent.  We will inform members as soon as we learn of any settlement between the union and the Hyatt.
  • Several SAA members have notified the Council and staff that they have been contacted by union representatives via phone, email, or personal visits. Some members have been comfortable with those contacts; others have not.  SAA does not release member contact information to nonmembers and our use policy for the online member directory states the following:  “Use of SAA’s information for any commercial, public, or political purpose is strictly prohibited.”  
  • The Council realizes that some members may decide to attend the meeting but stay at another hotel.  Although this may appear to be a good compromise, it holds significant ramifications for SAA.  As is typical of hotel contracts for conference space, SAA’s contract provides for complimentary meeting space (for education sessions, group meetings, exhibit hall, etc.) based on meeting a certain number of sleeping room reservations (i.e., the “room block”). If the room block is not met, SAA may be liable for some or all of the fees associated with meeting space.  Additionally, all sessions and the vast majority of events planned by the Program and Host committees and staff will take place at the Hyatt Regency.
  • Planning for the conference and SAA’s 75th Anniversary continues. We have issued invitations for a prominent keynote speaker, have contacted the producer of NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me to determine if the show will be taping in Chicago on August 27, and have a first-hold on the Field Museum as the site of the All-Attendee Reception. The Annual Meeting program will be posted on the website in mid- to late April and registration will open at that time.

Also see these articles:

"Council Votes to Proceed with Chicago Meeting"

"Update on Chicago Hotel Labor Dispute"