Update on Chicago Hotel Labor Dispute

February 9, 2011 - As noted in a January 31 communication with all members, SAA recently learned of a labor dispute involving UNITE HERE Local 1 (a hospitality workers union) and several Chicago-area hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Chicago, site of SAA’s 2011 Annual Meeting. The union is calling for a boycott of these hotels; no strike has been called. A labor contract was in place and the boycott was not in effect when SAA signed the hotel contract.

The SAA Council discussed the dispute at its January 27-30 meeting in Chicago because of the implications that it may have for the Society’s 75th Anniversary conference, scheduled for August 22-27. During its meeting, the Council heard from representatives of the hotel and the union.

The Council and staff are investigating options related to the conference venue and are monitoring the situation closely. Following is some information that may be of interest to SAA members:

  • The union has called for a boycott of the Hyatt, Hilton, and Sheraton hotels in the Chicago metropolitan area. No strike has been called.
  • The Council invited hotel representatives and union representatives to meet with us for 30 minutes each, during which they made their case(s) and responded to our questions.
  • Given the groups' different perspectives, it's difficult for us to know the facts. We have checked with the National Labor Relations Board to determine if facts regarding the dispute are available. The NLRB has informed us that there have been no filings with the Board involving Local 1 and the Hyatt in the past year.
  • A federal mediator is involved. We have checked with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to determine if facts regarding the dispute are available. FMCS operates in a strictly confidential manner and is not able to provide facts in the dispute.
  • As of now we have made no plan to move or cancel the conference.
  • Cancellation of our contract would have a crippling effect on the Society’s finances, amounting to between $400,000 and $700,000 (or approximately 20% to 30% of SAA's annual budget) depending on the date of cancellation.

The Council is grateful for the member comments that we have received and welcomes additional member comment on this situation via the "Add New Comment" function immediately below this post. Or you may wish to direct comments or questions to SAA President Helen Tibbo (tibbo@email.unc.edu), SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont (nbeaumont@archivists.org), or any member of the SAA Council(http://tinyurl.com/47jse62).


14 Comment(s) to the "Update on Chicago Hotel Labor Dispute"
JCassedy says:

Can Council provide regular updates on how it is improving the vetting of contacts in order to avoid running into similiar social justice issues in the future?  Can we look forward to reading about this issue on immediate upcoming agendas?

In addition, I assume that other Convention hotel contracts may have been signed already.  If this is the case, how far in advance have these contracts been signed?  With whom have they been signed- the Hyatt, Hilton and Sheraton sound as if they could be the usual motely crew of SAA convention hotels. Is there a time limit built within the contract  that permits SAA to cancel future contracts, if we cannot cancel this years? If we can cancel future contracts, perhaps we can let the hotel group know of our concern, and that we would in all probability have to cancel future contracts in other cities.

Perhaps we can also consider using locally owned hotels in the future, or at least consider the possibility, rather than automatically looking to chains for accomodations.

A tall order, indeed. 


Jim Cassedy

Soren6961 says:

I understand the logistical and financial bind that this labor dispute puts on SAA, but I would be morally and ethically opposed to breaking this boycott to attend the annual meeting if it is held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago hotel. I ask that serious consideration be given to alternatives to hosting the meeting at one of the hotels involved in the dispute, and that those options be presented to the membership for our consideration in a timely manner.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide feedback.

Kristy Sorensen, CA

Archivist and Records Manager

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

alvarez@umd.edu says:
Chicago Hotel Labor Dispute

The son of my late mentor, Professor Thomas Walsh (Georgetown University), is an elected official of Unite Here.  I received an e-mail from him containing the following:

"as a member it would be very helpful if you could push the staff to release a copy of the contract between the Society and the Hyatt so that our lawyers can perhaps assist in lessening the penalties involved in making a change in venue. Please feel free to call me at 213-926-6067 or email me at this address if you would like to discuss this further."

I am in favor of any efforts to support the union in this dispute.  My mentor's son is also Thomas Walsh.  Would it be appropriate for him to communicate directly with Nancy Beaumont or Helen Tibbo?

Sincerely yours,

Beth Alvarez, Ph.D., Curator of Literary Manuscripts, University of Maryland Libraries   

Sparkler89 says:
hotel dispute

My inclination is to proceed with the conference.  Our plans were made at a time when there was no knowledge of this dispute and while we may be hesitant to ignore a boycott, we do have our own considerations.

swoodland says:
Chicago hotel labor dispute

Many thanks for the continued communication.  (If only my company exhibited such delightful transparency.)

Based on the cost of moving the conference and the fact that nothing has been filed with the NLRB, and the fact that the conference is still 6 months away, I support you in monitoring the situation but doing nothing right now.  Hotels have a stranglehold on organizations who must book years in advance.  A difficult decision; we can only hope that the dispute will be settled through mediation in the near future.

Again, thank you for keeping us informed.

Susan Woodland

BTurner says:

Has anyone attempted to contact the union leadership or regional office of the AFL-CIO? I think the decision to wait until additional information is fair. However, in the event that the workers strike, I would be unable to cross a picket line. Perhaps additional information from the union leadership would be beneficial for anticipating future actions. Would it also be possible for the Council to share a synopsis of the 30 minute presentations given by both the hotel and union? More information on the issues facing the hotel and/or workers may also be helpful.

astankra says:
Issues and Advocacy Archives Roundtable Response Labor Dispute

February 4, 2011

Dear President Tibbo, Director Beaumont, and Council of the Society of American Archivists,

The Steering Committee of the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable wishes to express its deep concern with the ongoing labor dispute in Chicago between UNITE HERE Local 1 and the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Naturally, as citizens we hope that the issue will be swiftly resolved with fairness, justice and equitable treatment on both sides. More specifically, however, as members of SAA we wish to stand in solidarity with our fellow archivists in the Labor Archives Roundtable.

The members of the LAR have communicated to you their ethical concerns about a situation in which they may be required to cross a picket line in order to participate in the Annual Meeting. In such a situation, they would be trading their heartfelt belief in the basic right of workers to assemble and demonstrate peaceably, for the unparalleled professional opportunities available at the Annual Meeting. Like the LAR, we believe that this is a false, unfair and unacceptable choice. Many members of the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable and its Steering Committee would also, in the event that the labor dispute continues, be unwilling to cross a picket line and would therefore also be unable to participate in the Annual Meeting should it take place at the Hyatt Regency Chicago or any other Chicago-area hotel involved in the dispute.

Our Roundtable is dedicated to the ideal of ensuring freedom of information, and our activities bend towards bringing that ideal to fruition. We feel that to this end we must stand in support for all fundamental human freedoms, including those of the worker to fight for fair and equitable employment conditions. Therefore we join with our professional colleagues in the Labor Archives Roundtable and like-minded colleagues throughout the Society of American Archivists in expressing our concerns with the current situation and the potential for inappropriately inserting SAA into the continuing dispute.

Yours sincerely,

Members of the Steering Committee
Issues & Advocacy Roundtable


traci.drummond says:
Labor Archives Roundtable response Hotel Labor Dispute

Below is a letter sent to Director Beaumont and the SAA Council, with chairs of all Sections and Roundtables copied:

Dear director Beaumont and Members of the SAA Council:

The Labor Archives Roundtable became aware recently that the Council had met with both parties in a labor dispute that might affect SAA’s 2011 conference in Chicago. We appreciate your quick action to meet with both the management and the union, and we hope that the labor dispute will be settled quickly and amicably and will in no way affect SAA’s annual meeting.  

The Labor Archives Roundtable realizes that it would be both costly and inconvenient for SAA to pull out of the contract with the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Further, we appreciate the time and effort that goes in to planning a conference, and how far in advance much of the work has to take place.

While we acknowledge the bind that the dispute and the hotel contract put us in, we also recognize the enormous challenge that is now presented to some of our members. Many of us hold the right to organize and to bargain in good faith as basic human rights: all workers should be able to fight for improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions without fear of scare tactics or negative repercussions. It would be difficult for many archivists, especially for those who work with labor collections and those who are members of unions, individually and as a community, to cross a picket line. Crossing a picket line would be an unacceptable involvement in the dispute, one that we perceive as a de facto expression of support for the hotel management.

Members of the Labor Archives Roundtable and other archivists of SAA feel it is necessary to communicate our concerns with the Council about this dispute and how it impacts us as both individuals and members of an organized profession. Again, we hope that the dispute will be settled quickly and amicably, but we must respond in conscience if it is not. Many of us will be deprived of the professional opportunities that an SAA meeting promises, but that may be the only option for members who feel they have a moral and ethical obligation to support workers’ rights.  

Finally, we offer a strong recommendation that SAA’s management and Council enact a due diligence procedure for vetting hotels and all other major vendor contracts to provide for a standard review of social justice polices, a company’s record on human rights, and other patterns of socially responsible business practice. Organizations are available to assist SAA in undertaking this review.

We thank the SAA Council for their transparency in this situation and for receiving this letter and its recommendation.


Traci Drummond
Tom Connors

On behalf of members of the Labor Archives Roundtable

Lauren Kata, Collections Manager
Archives of the Episcopal Church, Austin, TX

William LeFevre, Reference Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Kristen Lynn Chinery, Librarian
Walter P. Reuther Library

Dan Golodner, AFT Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Mary J. Wallace, Audiovisual Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Johanna Russ, AFSCME Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Elizabeth Clemens, Audiovisual Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Troy Eller, Society of Women Engineers Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Deborah Rice, Archivist
Walter P. Reuther Library

Lynda J. DeLoach, Archivist
The George Meany Memorial Archives

Sarah Springer, Archivist 
The George Meany Memorial Archives 

Emily K. Smith, Collection Manager / Archivist
United Mine Workers of America

Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus
UW-Madison SLIS, Archives specialization

Catherine Powell, Director
Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University

Jim Cartwright
University of Hawaii

Conor M. Casey, Archivist
Labor Archives of Washington State, Libraries Special Collections

Albert Lowe, Aspiring archivist

John Hyslop
Queens Central Library

Jim Quigel
Penn State University, Historical Collections and Labor Archives

Gail Malmgreen
Wagner Labor Archives, NYU

Alison Dundy

Meredith Crawford
SLIS Student, San Jose State University (And wife of a Local 2 member, working at a hotel)

Alison Stankrauff, Archivist and Assistant Librarian
Franklin D. Schurz Library, Indiana University South Bend

Steven Mandeville-Gamble, Assistant University Librarian for Collection Development
George Washington University


Xjaa321 says:
Hotel Labor Dispute

I write in full support of the Labor Archives Roundtable's position and endorse their open letter to Council.  I would not  be able to attend a meeting in a hotel if it were the subject of an official work action by organized labor.  I also stongly support the recommendation that Council consider making social responsibility a routine part of its due diligence criteria for future selection of vendors.

Mark J. Duffy    
Canonical Archivist and Director
The Archives of the Episcopal Church
Research Repository: P.O. Box 2247, Austin, TX  78768
Records Administration: 815 Second Avenue, NYC, NY  10017

astankra says:
Chicago Hotel Labor Dispute


I want to voice my opposition to SAA's annual conference being held in a hotel that is experiencing a labor dispute. I think that as an organization, SAA ought to be actively supporting unions, especially as much of our membership either takes care of labor-related collections (as I do), or are themselves unionized.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to voice concern on this issue,

Alison Stankrauff

Archivist and Assistant Librarian

Franklin D. Schurz Library

Indiana University South Bend

P.O. Box 7111

South Bend, Indiana  46634
(574) 520-4392



Cchartier says:
Economic boycott?

I can't pledge to not cross a picket line, and I'm glad that this dispute is not at that point, because my employer pays for me to represent them at SAA. However, I can pledge to not spend any money at that hotel. My coffee, water, meals and lodging can easily be found elsewhere.

Courtney Chartier


lasuprema says:
I won't cross a picket line.

I hope this gets resolved in a way that pleases all involved. But if it comes down to it, I will not cross a picket line. Instead, I'll probably come to Chicago and stay elsewhere and network after hours with my archival colleagues. Thanks for soliciting comments!

gallo11812 says:
Support the boycott.

Claire Galloway, C.A.

Labor Archivist

Texas Labor Archives

University of Texas at Arlington Library Special Collections

DocsPopuli says:
SAA-LAR position on conference

I support the LAR letter outlining the challenges and responses to this situation. It's a sad truth that archivists, despite the dubious fantasy of being "white-collar professionals," have a lot in common with our brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry. Our salaries are low and we generally get little respect for our contribution to the preservation and understanding of our common cultural heritage. Few of us are in unions. This is one opportunity for us to ask our professional association to try and use its influence for a positive outcome for other workers.

Lincoln Cushing
consulting archivist
Berkeley, CA