Monday, January 10, 2011
Given the charge of reflexive moral exhibitionism by James Young on Rick's post this past Friday on the picketing by law professors and others at the San Francisco Hilton during the recent annual meeting of the Assocation of American Law Schools (AALS), I thought rather than answer James directlty, I would try to show some of the emotion and heart on display in solidarity with the Hilton HERE Local 2 hotel workers for obtaining a better contract this past Friday at a rally and on the line.
I thought long and hard about whether to post my AALS Sonnet which I read publicly at the Law and Humanities Section panel on Saturday morning in San Francisco and whether to post Professor Rachel Arnow-Richman's inspiring speech at the rally, but with Rachel's permission, I publish both here. Sure, some like James, will jeer at some ivory-towered-types like us engaging in what they might believe is facile righteous indignation. But I believe all human beings must work hard to develop a space or a place between righteous indignation and shame over not saying anything, and that is what I seek to do in this post. In addition to being real to myself, my hope is that this post also provides a good example for students and others who have read this blog over the years.
An AALS Sonnet
by Professor Paul M. Secunda
I was filled with rage,
Workers' rights a mess,
Professional Progressives against us.
Prager, Hanson, and Olivas
Why is there so little trust?
Lawprofs are human beings too,
Concerned with worker dignity through and through.
Will union rights live to fight another day?
Labor profs ready to walk away.
Full of frustration and distrust,
Thinking of not coming next year, better off.
I am today filled with rage,
But future tomorrows light my way.
Remarks at Local HERE 2 San Francisco Hilton Hotel Rally
by Professor Rachel Arnow-Richman
Friends and Colleagues, Organizers and Workers, I am so honored to stand before you today.
My awe and appreciation for everything you have done has deepened (as has my faith in your ultimate success) each day that I myself have worked to try to relocate this conference.
And let me tell you why.
First the good news – through the hard work of the people like Karl Klare, Gary Peller, Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, and David Harlan, over 2/3 of the AALS conference has been relocated out of the Hilton!
Next the bad news – In the course of trying to achieve this result, we have seen AALS engage in depressingly familiar tactics: Beginning with stonewalling, delay, replacing principled faculty who refused to appear in the Hilton with other speakers. Do you recognize any of these moves?
These tactics – straight out of the anti-union management playbook – culminated last night in a refusal to adopt a non-binding resolution asking AALS to do more next time to avoid siting a hotel in the midst of an active labor dispute. What was their rationale? That it would impair their “organizational flexibility” and cost millions of dollars that would ultimately come out of our pockets as dues-paying members.
This response has been the cause of tremendous frustration and indignation for principled faculty. But luckily for us AALS is not our employer.
Imagine for just a moment that these games were being played not by a professional society with whom we voluntarily affiliate, but by the company who paid our salaries, a company that had the right to set the terms and conditions of our employment, to terminate us at will.
If you can imagine that and imagine the courage it would take to be as outspoken as we have been in those circumstances, then you begin to imagine the circumstances under which Local 2 is waging its battle.
And you might also come to appreciate the importance of our role as faculty in that struggle.
You the professors have a special duty to stand up for these brave workers. Not only are we as faculty committed professionally (through our research and teaching) to the cause of justice, but we enjoy a freedom of speech, a security in our employment, and a voice in the governance of our workplaces that is unheard of in the contemporary economy. If those of us who enjoy the privileges and security of academic employment don’t speak out on behalf of these workers who will?
So I call on all of the law professors to honor this boycott and to stand in solidarity with these incredibly brave women and men of Unite/HERE! Local 2.