Gay journos convention hit by union picket
Gay and lesbian journalists from across the country encountered a picket line Thursday when they arrived at the hotel where their national conference is taking place this week. Many of them had been under intense pressure for months to pull out of the Hyatt Regency at the center of a labor dispute.
Workers at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency have been working without a contract for exactly a year now. To put pressure on Hyatt, their union — UNITE HERE! Local Two — has called for a boycott against the hotel.
In June, UNITE HERE’s Powell DeGange asked the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association to honor the boycott and back out of its four-day national convention at the Hyatt.
DeGange: “We wanted them to move their summit to another hotel, and we wanted them to take the concrete first steps to fight the cancellation fee.”
‘The cancellation fee’ is the $150,000 penalty NLGJA President David Steinberg says the group faced if it broke its contract with the Hyatt, signed three years ago. UNITE HERE’s DeGange says it’s very unlikely NLGJA would have had to pay a large penalty. He says other groups have broken their contracts, citing labor actions as a force beyond their control. Steinberg says the group talked to both the union and the Hyatt, but ultimately decided it couldn’t risk the punitive fine.
Steinberg: “If we tried moving to another hotel and we had to pay the penalties, it would have bankrupted NLGJA. Even if we were able to get out of the penalties, we just don’t have enough money or resources to have done it.”
UNITE HERE stepped up the pressure over the last few months, with regular emails and phone calls to NLGJA members and convention panelists, including myself, pleading with us to side with working people.
In the end, the union’s informational picket lasted just a few hours. Steinberg says “about ten” members and panelists pulled out of the convention because of the boycott.
–Tim Curran in San Francisco