Thursday, January 07, 2010

Mitch Freedman Remembers the ALA SF Boycott of Marriott June 18, 2001.

Mitch Freedman was ALA President-2003-2004.

Beginning January 4, 2009 the ALA Social Responsibilities RoundTable debated weather to honor the 2010 Boycott of Hyatt Hotels during the MidWinter conference in Boston. See SRRT archives.

As part of the discussion Mitch Freedman wrote the SRRT discussants about the boycott in 2001. Mitch Freedman was ALA President-2003-2004.

Hi, All,

At least some of the details re SF Marriott that Al requests are relatively simple.

There was a boycott--not a strike--of the SF Marriott by Local 2 HERE (Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees), San Francisco.

The boycott had been endorsed by the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and a host of public officials as well as anyone remotely progressive in the Bay Area, if not the State of California.

Here the details are no longer quite as precise.

A number of us wanted ALA to join the boycott. As early as the prior Fall, there were pressures applied to ALA to pull all of its events out of the Marriott. There was a vote by the Executive Board (Midwinter or Spring before annual?) to continue with the Marriott.
The boycott was supported by numerous ALA members and all kinds of folks from SF, tourists, hotel staff, and people from the Bay Area.

See SRRT Resolution:

RESOLVED that SRRT calls for an immediate resolution by Marriott of all
outstanding issues and full recognition of the rights of all its workers
and calls upon ALA to make it clear that bad labor practices in any unit
of a chain will influence conference location decision choices with
respect to hotels in the whole chain.
Moved by Mark Rosenzweig
Seconded by Al Kagan
Passed Unanimously by Action Council II June 18, 2001
ALA 2001. "Resolutions passed at Annual." SRRT Newsletter, 136, 2.

Many people cancelled reservations at the Marriott and had to find other places to stay, no simple problem.

It was a wonderful action. The local had incredible energy and their attitude and spirit were exceptional. Pots and pans, drums, etc. were all used to let the public know something was happening there.

A personal note: a significant effort was made to get ALA to move it's Executive Board meetings to the SFPL. Susan Hildreth, director at the time, offered the range of facilities that ALA seemed to require. ALA rejected the offer because in its judgment what SFPL offered was not adequate in terms of facilities and access. It also was expressed that it was too late to make all of the logistical and other arrangements required for such a change.

fyi I did not attend the Inaugural Banquet at the SF Marriott at which I was to be inaugurated as President-Elect.
Patricia Glass Schuman was the Lippincott Award winner at the time of
the SF Marriott boycott. Michael Gorman was the recipient of the Melvil Dewey Medal.
Both of them preferred the picket line to attending the Awards ceremony and being handed their respective checks. Pat Schuman, Michael Gorman, and I all spoke that evening OUTSIDE the Marriott. We urged people to boycott the Inaugural Banquet. If memory serves me right, I believe Mark Rosenzweig (and one or two others) actually went into the hotel--I think, to the banquet--with protest signs and eventually left.

I urge any who wish to exercise your free speech and assembly rights to
do so. The use of the ALA name always has been a contentious issue--especially if it is used in regard to something embarrassing or in opposition to an Association action or policy.

If you'll forgive one more trip down memory lane, there was an ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia (don't remember the year, but it may have been the one at which Liz Futas or Marvin Scilken died... yes, they were two of the three librarians that died at each of three successive ALA midwinters in Philadelphia) that moved me to organize a protest.
At the time the efforts to put Mumia Abu Jamal to death-- he was convicted already--were quite intense. After having listened to repeated Mumia-related broadcasts on WBAI (Amy Goodman and others) and read and viewed related material, I felt that it would be inexcusable to go to Philly without doing something to stop the injustice.

To make this dragged out story shorter, a bunch of us stood outside the Sheraton (?), picketed, handed out leaflets, and posed for the innumerable photos taken by the Philadelphia police, who were very much on hand. (A local Quaker anti-capital punishment group said that things would go much more smoothly if we notified the cops in advance.)

It was a bitter cold day. ALA's administration said/did nothing whatsoever--one way or another--regarding the picket. The stakes were different and higher in SF. For one thing the hotel was the site of the picket but not the reason for it. Unlike the situation with the Marriott and Hyatt.

Running on like this, perhaps, is a function of old age &/or retirement, so I'll end and repeat what I said above. You and anyone else should feel absolutely free to exercise your rights of free speech and assembly at the Hyatt or anywhere else.

Warmest regards to you all.

Mitch Freedman's papers are available at the ALA archives.

(Incidentally, you can see additional photos of the boycott at

See article: ALA Breaks Attendance Records Despite Marriott Boycott.American Libraries 32 no7 68-82 Ag 2001.

On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 11:15 AM, Al Kagan wrote:
Let me just remind everyone that there is precedent for picketing an
ALA hotel. Mitch Freedman walked the picket line when he was becoming
ALA President, and refused to go to a VIP event inside that hotel. Many
events scheduled in that hotel were boycotted, and I think SRRT even
cancelled an event there. Someone with a better memory might provide
the details.

1 comment:

keller said...

I will add to Mitch's tangent by commenting that the Philadelphia protest was at Midwinter 1999, which was the conference during which Marvin Scilken passed away. That's all I got.