rally cries

Did the Latest Protest of Doug Manchester’s Hyatt Hotel Accomplish Anything?

C’mon, that’s like asking whether any protest accomplishes anything. But to answer the question, you have to know what goal there was. And in this case, it was an 11th hour appeal to the American Historical Association to pull an about-face and opt not to holds its annual conference on the grounds of (and fund the pockets of) Doug Manchester’s massive San Diego Hyatt hotel.

It didn’t work, of course, and the show went on.

But that doesn’t mean the First Amendment wasn’t getting a vigorous workout as a couple hundred activists on Saturday took to the streets to remind everyone that the owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt was a major donor to the Prop 8 cause, even though he’s now renounced-ish his support (in a sad attempt at winning over the gays).


Cleve Jones, who’s been railing against Manchester for some time and called the AHA’s meeting a “slap in the face,” and some friends were on the scene with the megaphones and the signs for a media-friendly staging. But were protesters willing to give AHA a fair shake? Inside Higher Ed reports:

The AHA argued that it couldn’t cancel its contract with the Hyatt without facing huge fees [a reported $800,000] that would have endangered the association’s finances. In a gesture to those who wanted to cancel the Hyatt events, the AHA added a series of special scholarly sessions on gay marriage and issues related to sexual orientation. But even though the meeting used more than one hotel, most of these sessions were at the Hyatt, forcing gay scholars and other supporters of gay equal rights to enter the hotel (even if many of these attendees made a point of staying elsewhere — and of buying their coffee or snacks off site).

Some AHA members said that they were staying away from this year’s meeting altogether, as a protest. But while attendance was down, most here said that the drop was largely due to the poor economy, and the resulting drop in the number of job interviews going on (not to mention smaller or non-existent travel budgets). Events at the Hyatt were not visibly less attended than those at the Marriott next door.

We just hope they took all the complimentary soaps and shampoos to really stick it to Manchester.

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  • terrwill

    Undecided if AHA should be given a pass, Prop 8 was
    defeated ova a year ago. Boycott was started right
    after such defeat. However many orgs book their events
    well ova a year in advance. So therefore unless someone
    was able to peruse the date contract was signed, there
    is no way to know if they gave the community a historical

  • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    Having organized some (smaller) convention-type events, if the AHA had a $800k cancellation clause the net result for Mr. Manchester would have been he’d make MORE if they cancelled than if they had the convention.
    The profit margins of a convention-hotel aren’t that fat, and if they cancelled the convention he’d just collect the penalty and rent-out the rooms to some other group…making money off them, plus the penalty money. A win-win for Mr. Manchester.

    The G/L activist were merely useful dupes in what’s really a service union vs. hotel management dispute.

  • Jay D.

    Speaking as a member of the AHA who was in attendance at the rally – and who did honor the boycott – let me speak to the issue of the fines.

    We don’t know if the AHA could have gotten out of the $800K fine, because they didn’t try to get out of the fine. They might have been able to relocate as did many others – such as the California Nurses Association and the American Association of Law Schools – which paid either no fines or reduced fines.

    The boycott coalition repeatedly offered assistance to the Association in trying to help them move without penalty beginning a year ago, but they turned all offers of help. It remains unknown whether or not they would have been able to get out of the fines, but the fact that they didn’t even try means that the AHA leadership felt that the boycott was not important enough to make the effort.

    And that’s what is insulting to the LGBT Community.

  • Eliana

    I was at the convention this weekend. Like many of my fellow attendees we weren’t there for the sessions — we used our expense accounts to soak up some California sun and see the sights, so we weren’t at the hotel most of the time anyway and could have cared less about the boycott; it didn’t mar our good time.

    As far as the Prop 8 protest goes, I am a supporter of LGBT issues and have no problem with gay marriage. But what does the AHA have to do with Prop 8 or Manchester’s support of it? The AHA books these conventions YEARS in advance. (If you go to the AHA’s website you can see that the next several years conventions are already booked.) The AHA operates on a shoestring, so the cancellation fee would have killed us. I think the AHA did a good job of opening dialogue, creating an entire conference just on LGBT/ gay marriage issues, and offering alternate hotels for participants who had objections to supporting the Manchester Hyatt. As another person commented, canceling would only have resulted in Manchester getting more money than he would have if we had just had the convention. How would the LGBT protestors feel about that? LGBT protestors also need to realize that the AHA is a world-wide organization of historians, of varying political, ethnic, and religious affiliations. The AHA cannot afford to take a stand on hot-button issues like this — we are not a political organization.

    That said, most of what I saw were UNION protestors. That’s a separate issue altogether. Frankly, I hope they don’t unionize — I’ve never had such amazing, friendly, prompt service in a hotel stay.

  • Dr. B

    I also saw amazing, friendly, prompt service at the unionized hotel I chose to stay at when I attended the AHA, a trip paid for out of my own pocket. The people who work so hard to give us a nice stay at these luxury hotels deserve decent treatment from their employers in return, and as the known overwork of the Manchester Hyatt room cleaners (30 rooms a day) has proven, too often it takes a union to make that happen.

    One of the greatest misconceptions I think that came out of this is the idea that somehow the union was or is using the LGBT movement to advance their ends. But when I attended the rally (the day before reluctantly presenting my paper at the Hyatt) I saw plenty of both union and LGBT activist out in full force–enough to convince the thoughtful observer that the alliance is mutual–UNITE HERE Local 30 has chosen to treat its LGBT members as equals, and in turn the local LGBT community appears to support the union’s agenda of decent jobs in the city’s significant hospitality industry.

  • Lukas P.

    with thattt

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  • Dave in Northridge

    I was at the AHA convention too. I’m one of the 36,000 gay men and lesbians in California whose marriage was NOT annulled when the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, and I stayed at the hotel (as Ted B. said above, I knew I was costing Doug Manchester money by doing so). I saw the protest too on my way to one of the gay/lesbian history sessions that had been moved to another hotel; it was nice and noisy, and it wasn’t a UNION protest per se, it was more about an organization that counsels organizations about the problems certain hotels might have for them.

    Remember, the AHA had a problem a few years ago with the Adam’s Mark hotel in St. Louis about race issues, and it didn’t cancel the contract with them either, so it’s not just g/l issues the AHA is tone-deaf about, wall-to-wall sessions on same-sex marriage notwithstanding.

    Eliana, what kind of historian are you if you think historyical organizations and the practice of history aren’t political? Just asking.

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