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A letter from the leaders of the Association of American Law Schools airs their frustrations about the vocal opposition to the organization’s choice of hotels for its conference next month. Association President Reese Hansen, President-elect Michael Olivas and Executive Director Susan Prager wrote on Dec. 13 to law school deans that the purpose of their letter was to express their “concerns” about the opposition and to update attendees about pending panel venues. The opposition comes from legal educators, led by Georgetown University Law Center professor Gary Peller, who support a union in labor dispute at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, selected as the main hotel for the Jan. 5-8 conference. Citing “tactics” used to drum up support for the union’s position, the letter says that many participants feel “badgered and harassed” to boycott the hotel. “We relate these facts with concern and sadness,” the letter says. The controversy stemmed from the association’s decision to hold many of the conference’s meetings and panel discussions at the Hilton, a site it negotiated for nine years ago. Hotel management is engaged in an ongoing dispute with Unite Here! Local 2, a union representing unskilled and lightly skilled hotel workers. About 180 law professors from dozens of law schools have signed letters to the association asking it to rescind its decision to hold conference meetings and panel discussions at the Hilton. Olivas said that the association has moved about two-thirds of the conference’s events to two other hotels in the San Francisco. “Unfortunately, in the efforts to pressure the AALS to move all accommodations, programs, and meetings out of the Hilton, some tactics have been reported to us that we believe to be inappropriate,” the letter says. Peller, who has contacted speakers participating in programs at the Hilton about the dispute, insisted that his correspondence has been courteous and that the association was attempting to disparage union sympathizers instead of addressing his group’s concerns. “I don’t badger people,” Peller said. He added that about 14 speakers have told him that they will not attend events at the Hilton. Peller is working with a handful of other professors to encourage a Hilton boycott, including fellow Georgetown professor Louis Michael Seidman and Northeastern University School of Law professor Karl Klare. They persuaded nearly 180 other members to sign letters to the association asking it to boycott the Hilton. Olivas said the Dec. 13 letter was intended to help finalize the schedule for the Jan. 5-8 meeting. The letter says that the union has assured the Hilton that it would not strike during the meeting. The letter also says that the association would post the final locations for meetings on Dec. 16. It has extended the deadlines for refunds to Dec. 20. “This is a conference of 3,000 people,” Olivas said. “There are hundreds of programs.” This year’s controversy is similar to problems that the association has faced in the past over its sites for the annual meeting, attended by hundreds of professors from law schools across the country. In 2008, the association was forced to choose an alternate site in San Diego after legal educators balked at the selection of the Manchester Grand Hyatt. 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 association 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 union picket lines. Peller, who has not attended an association annual conference since 1993, said that his motivation for supporting the union came from his own experience as a hotel worker in Atlanta before he went to law school. “In addition to the low pay, one of the worst things was the lack of basic human respect and dignity accorded to me,” he said. Leigh Jones can be contacted at [email protected].

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