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The Association of American Law Schools once again is battling a contingent of law professors who politically oppose the venue of the organization’s annual meeting.

About 180 professors from dozens of law schools are calling on the AALS to rescind its decision to hold the meeting in January at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. In letters to the AALS, the group said that it opposes the selection of the hotel because of an ongoing dispute between its management and a union representing unskilled and lightly skilled hotel workers.

This year’s controversy mirrors problems that the AALS has faced in the past over its site choice for the annual meeting, attended by hundreds of law professors from across the country. In 2008, the AALS was forced to choose an alternate site in San Diego after legal educators balked at the selection of the Manchester Grand Hyatt. AALS members said they would not attend the meeting at that location because the hotel owner had given money supporting California’s Marriage Protection Act.

In 2007, the AALS moved its meeting from San Francisco to Washington because of a labor dispute in San Francisco. In 2004, the group announced a "Plan B" that provided other locations for meetings after members said they would not cross picket lines in a labor dispute at the time.

Georgetown University Law Center Professor Louis Seidman said he is not attending the meeting in January because the AALS has refused to move all events from the Hilton. "There’s a firestorm of protest," Seidman said. AALS President Elect Michael Olivas said the organization books hotels up to 10 years in advance and that it is impossible to predict labor disputes. The AALS has moved many of January’s events from the Hilton to two other hotels in San Francisco, one of which is non-union. He said that a handful of professors, some who wouldn’t attend the meeting anyway, are fueling the opposition in support of the union.

"I’ve got staff who are being hectored and badgered by individuals," Olivas said.

The union, Unite Here Local 2, represents service employees, largely immigrant workers, who are picketing the hotel demanding better benefits and higher wages. They include bellhops, housekeeping workers, cooks and dishwashers who have worked for a year without a contract.

The group of professors, which includes educators from Harvard Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Yale Law School and Columbia Law School, is urging the AALS to move all events from the Hilton and has vowed to picket programs at the hotel.

Relocating all events from the Hilton is not possible because of space constraints, said Olivas. "There are lots of moving parts here," he said. "If we had wanted to, we couldn’t have done that."

The AALS 2011 annual meeting takes place on Jan. 5-8.

Leigh Jones can be contacted at [email protected].

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