SD hotel picketed as gay event held
by David Batterson
Equality California and the Courage Campaign joined San Diego LGBT activists and Unite Here Local 30 union members last Saturday in the latest demonstration against the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel even as a workshop on same-sex marriage took place inside.
The Manchester Grand Hyatt, owned by Doug Manchester, has been the target of a boycott for nearly two years. Manchester made a $125,000 contribution to the proponents of Proposition 8 as they were seeking to place the measure on the ballot in 2008. Of course, Prop 8 passed in November 2008, banning same-sex marriage in the Golden State.
EQCA brought in people by bus from West Hollywood to participate in the January 9 demonstration. Unite Here national organizer Cleve Jones, Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger, and Courage Campaign Chair Rick Jacobs spoke at the spirited rally, just before the march began around the Hyatt's twin towers.
Meeting inside the hotel was the Washington, D.C.-based American Historical Association, which said it had signed a contract in 2003 and could not break it without incurring a $750,000 penalty, according to Arnita Jones of the historical association. That was the stance last year of the State Bar of California, which held its fall conference at the hotel despite many attorneys – gay and straight – expressing frustration with the decision.
The historical association was aware of the boycott and included a workshop called "Historical Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage." A news release from January 2009 said that the historical association formed a working group "to create a series of sessions and special events, and place questions of marriage and family in historical perspective."
The passage of Prop 8 prompted the submission of a resolution by the council of the historical association at its business meeting last January. The resolution stated, "the AHA is committed to equity in the workplace and equal rights regardless of race, ethnicity, religious belief, disability, gender, or sexual orientation," and "it is one aspect of the AHA to bring historical expertise to bear on issues of pressing public concern."
At that meeting, the council also established a LGBTQ Task Force, to "gather information about the concerns of LGBTQ members and propose concrete practical solutions." American Historical Association members who support the boycott did not have to stay at the Hyatt, as the organization had reserved rooms at three other San Diego hotels.
But in his remarks at the rally, Jones blasted the association for not honoring the boycott.
"Sometimes decisions cost money, but the American Historical Association today made the wrong decision," Jones said.
A joint campaign overseen by Jones between Unite Here and LGBT activists called "Sleep With The Right People" encourages LGBT travelers and event planners to use only hotels that respect the rights of their workers. Speaking on behalf of the union, Jones said the "agenda of this union is equality for all workers, including lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people."
Karger spoke about how the boycott began, nearly two years ago, just after same-sex couples were allowed to wed after the state Supreme Court's May 2008 decision allowing the unions.
"Unite Here and I met over by City Hall here in June 2008," Karger said. "Cleve facilitated a meeting between the LGBT organizations in San Diego and the union. And we agreed to start this boycott. And it began July 18, 2008."
Jacobs fired up the diverse, cheering crowd by saying, "We are here together. And Doug Manchester and his spokespeople don't understand that equality in the workplace, equality in California, and equality across the nation is our fight together."
In a signal that the boycott has affected business at the hotel, Manchester last year offered $25,000 in grant money to LGBT organizations, along with $100,000 in hotel credits, but gay organizations have turned down the offers.
Local 30 spokesman Dan Rottenstreich earlier told the Bay Area Reporter, "We are continuing boycott actions at the Manchester Hyatt to protest Manchester's contribution to Prop. 8, and global Hyatt's refusal to repudiate Manchester's contribution."
"Until Manchester truly apologizes for his contribution and makes things right with the LGBT community and labor, our boycott will continue and grow," Rottenstreich said.
Manchester issued his apology online at http://www.mghsd4equality.com/mr-manchester-s-apology. It says in part that "I am not, nor was I ever, anti-gay. I am and have been in favor of domestic partnership and civil unions for quite some time. My private act and financial contribution does not in any way reflect or represent advocacy on the part of Hyatt Hotels and Resorts or its thousands of employees worldwide."
By most accounts, the boycott has had an impact.
Openly gay San Diego Council member Todd Gloria told the B.A.R last month that, "It's been a successful boycott."
As for Manchester's financial offer, Gloria said, "My civil rights are not for sale."
He added, "I think people do come around. And he's certainly entitled to his opinion. But the question is whether or not we as a community should be supporting a corporation that doesn't support us."
Gloria cited the successful boycott of Coors in the 1970s, and "now Coors is a lead sponsor for many of our events. So change does happen all the time."
[In San Francisco, San Francisco's gay, labor, and progressive communities have supported a boycott against the Coors Brewing Company since 1974 due to its anti-union stance and the Coors family's financial backing of anti-gay groups. The beer company, however, does now offer benefits to its LGBT employees.]