NLGSF Joins BALIF, UNITE HERE In State Bar Protest

Our chapter is joining Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom and UNITE HERE in protesting the California State Bar's Annual Meeting at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego.

Below we explain our reasons in a letter to State Bar Board of Governors President Holly J. Fujie:

I write on behalf of the Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild to explain our Chapter's endorsement of the protest action called for by the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, BALIF, of the State Bar's Annual Meeting in San Diego and of the call for a boycott of the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego by the Union seeking to organize hotel employees.

As you know, the Guild is an activist organization with many members - eight hundred here in the Bay Area - who identify themselves as progressives. While we are sympathetic to the situation the State Bar finds itself in with respect to BALIF's call for a protest of the Annual Meeting, we agree with BALIF that the struggle for marriage equity is an important human rights issue, indeed, this is a fundamental issue of equal protection. Accordingly, we believe it is especially appropriate for a legal organization such as the State Bar to decline to do business with the Manchester Hyatt given the Hotel owner's strong support for Proposition 8. We also support the boycott appeal of the UNITE HERE in San Diego, which, as we understand it, has demanded nothing more than that the Manchester Hyatt agree to a fair and expeditious procedure to determine the preferences of their employees for - or against - union representation.

We understand that you are concerned that by declining to do business with the Manchester Hyatt, some persons may contend that the State Bar is taking a political position in violation of the State Bar's constitution or bylaws. As we understand it, no one has asked the State Bar to contribute money or take a stance on the issue of marriage equity: BALIF, the Guild and others merely are asking the State Bar to not do business with a concern that is deeply controversial to many members of the State Bar. We are confident that many State Bar members will find it personally unacceptable to pass through the large picket lines that will surround the hotel on the day of the BALIF protest. What is being asked of the State Bar involves a business decision, that is, to not hold your annual meeting at this Hotel out of respect for the deep convictions many of us hold about this issue and in order to protect the good will of the State Bar.

We also understand that you have a concern about cancellation fees. Yet other groups connected to the State Bar, such as the council of delegates, have canceled with the hotel. This can be done on the grounds that the Hotel most certainly is not living up to its contractual commitment to provide the State Bar with a quiet and non-controversial venue for this meeting. Ask yourself if you contracted for this much controversy and distraction. And then ask Hyatt, why they did not give you advance notice of this boycott. There have been very large, noisy demonstrations in front of the hotel on a weekly basis for well over a year now. Assuming you were not aware this would be the situation, in the legal opinion of some of our members who have dealt with these issues, the State Bar has grounds to seek a rescission of the contract. Certainly you could have attempted to do that before proceeding with your annual meeting at this location.

In the future, we call upon the State Bar to not schedule events in hotels lacking union contracts if for no other reason than that many State Bar members have a strong aversion to staying in non-union hotels especially hotels involved in a labor dispute or a contentious organizing drive. Even if other State Bar members lack these preferences, and we know many do, we doubt they will object as a matter of principle to staying at one of the many large, mostly unionized hotel chains that do business in California.

Respectfully yours,

Carlos Villarreal
Executive Director

cc Bonnie M. Dumanis, John J. Dutton, Richard A. Frankel, Howard B. Miller, John E. Peterson, James H. Aguirre, Joseph L. Chairez, Laura N. Chick, Angela Joy Davis, George Davis, William Gailey, William N. Hebert, Rex Heinke, James Hussey, Paul A. Kramer Jr., Micha Star Liberty, Michael D. Marcus, Gwen Moore, Richard A. Rubin, Jon Streeter, Michael Tenenbaum, Patricia P. White