This article introduces the AALS Section on Labor Relations & Employment’s January 2011 Program, 'Author Meets Reader: Jack Getman’s Restoring the Power of Unions,' while exploring the significance of the contemporaneous union boycott of the Union Square Hilton, the primary site of the AALS 2011 Meeting. When the national leadership of the AALS proved unresponsive to UNITE HERE’s entreaties, a group of interested law professors undertook to convince the organization to relocate its conference using a combination of direct appeals to AALS leadership and grassroots mobilization of faculty attendees. Like many of the union movements described in Jack Getman’s monograph and the panelists’ papers, the UNITE HERE Hilton campaign both frustrated and inspired. The underlying dispute reflected the difficulties of achieving fair results for workers in an era of globalization and during a time of economic hardship. It also underscored the basic conflict at the heart of labor/management relations – the tension between those with power and voice and those without. Yet the Hilton dispute also confirmed Getman’s optimistic message about the potential for successful labor movements. The AALS’s response to the Hilton boycott inspired a mini-movement among interested law professors who stood publically with the union and worked within the Academy to garner support for the boycott. That experience brought home the power of UNITE HERE’s organizational and bargaining strategy – a combination of worker-driven, grassroots action combined with broad, public attacks on corporate interests and vulnerabilities – a strategy that has proved critical to its ability to secure contract victories despite the powerful forces aligned against contemporary labor unions.
Rachel Arnow-Richman, Author Meets Reader, Scholar Meets Worker: An Introduction to the Section on Labor Relations and Employment Law 2011 AALS Panel Presentation, 15 Em. Rts. & Emp. Pol'y J. 443 (2011)