What Do You and Our Industry Stand For?

Originally Posted Meetings Today Blog

I have written about whether groups should consider boycotting or pulling meetings and other business from states where laws are passed that are in direct opposition to their work or positions on diversity and inclusion. This includes laws that could potentially discriminate against and/or harm those who attend their conventions.

Richard Yep, CEO of the American Counseling Association (ACA), was interviewed in this article included in the July 2016 edition of Friday With Joan and in ASAE’s Associations Now about what his association did, including talking with the governor of Tennessee to try to keep a bill from becoming law, to try to stay in Nashville for their annual meeting. The state passed a law that made it impossible for ACA to meet there.

The Texas Legislature is in the process of considering what has become known around the U.S. as a “bathroom bill.” This and other proposed bills that are considered anti-LGBTQ are causing colleagues, organizations and companies to look closely at their policies—primarily ones on diversity and inclusion, and bylaws and missions—to determine what they will do regarding booking business in states like North Carolina and Tennessee where such bills have been passed and signed into law.

In another publication, ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV spoke about the outlook for meetings in 2017 and shared his views on the importance of diversity and inclusion and tracking laws such as those passed and those proposed. In MPI’s Meeting Professional publication, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow shared a different view of potential actions by companies and organizations in a situation where a law that they do not agree with is passed. The article was first published on the Huffington Post blog.

Dow argues that “we’re all better off when travel is not weaponized through bans and boycotts, but instead used as a unifying force for building understanding.” He then gives examples of destinations or entire states (North Carolina, Indiana, Mississippi, etc.) that lost business due to passed legislation.

While I believe the issues raised by Dow are critical because fewer jobs or less well-paying jobs hurt individuals and communities, I believe as strongly that potential harm to communities—and to those who travel on business or come to cities for conventions and conferences—must be considered when determining to boycott a city, hotel company or other business/destination whose practices are not in sync with one’s personal beliefs or the beliefs representative of a specific organization.

This blog will be published on the day on which a new U.S. President is being inaugurated and you may read it after he is. It comes after a weekend when a sitting member of Congress, a civil rights leader and 30-year U.S. House of Representatives member, John Lewis (D-GA), spoke out against the legitimacy of the election of the new U.S. President.

After Mr. Lewis’s comments, Mr. Trump tweeted the following:

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to…… mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”

[This message was written over two tweets].

If you are not familiar with John Lewis and his life of action that yielded results, you can read more from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and on Biography.com. [It was reported by reliable sources that the incoming U.S. president was not familiar with John Lewis, which I found abhorrent. I share the views of Charles M. Blow, a writer for The New York Times]. I wish I had Mr. Lewis’ energy to do all he has done to move the world toward justice.

In the Jan. 2017 edition of Friday With Joan, which contains one of the many blog posts that I regularly write for Meetings Today, I wrote about the importance of meetings bringing people together.

Consider this a call to action for you to bring these topics to discussion in the comments area below and in your own organization and families:

  • What do you stand for?
  • In what instances will you speak out, individually or as a company, about the rights of others—whether it’s the right to use a restroom or the pay employees receive (including the rights and pay of hotel higher-ups or of hotels themselves versus line workers in hotels, for example); the rights and pay of women or the rights of immigrants on whom our industry is dependent?
  • How are you working to better the world and the conditions in which we all live?
  • Would you do what some Texas DMOs and PCMA (during PCMA’s Convening Leaders in Austin) did? [You are encouraged to read the comments, some are frightening and important to know]. And here’s more news on the Texas Welcomes All coalition.
  • Are you making your meetings truly sustainable and seeking vendors and venues that practice human sustainability as well as “greening” efforts that benefit our world?
  • If, as stated in Roger Dow’s article, a great percentage of planners do not believe boycotts are effective, what do you think will help keep discriminatory laws from being passed if it’s not the “business case” often used to justify diversity and inclusion? What will help raise wages for those who are underpaid? What will help laws like North Carolina’s HB2 to be rescinded and avoided elsewhere?

How much are you willing to say or do to create change and in what ways? At a joint Shabbat service on Friday night on Jan. 13, 2017, at the Sixth & I Synagogue in D.C.*, which I attended with a diverse group of industry and other friends, this quote, from Rabbi Hillel, was said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?

I ask you for our industry and the people we bring together and those who work in our industry, if not now, when? What do we stand for and for what will we stand?

*The Sixth & I Synagogue service I attended has been held every year since 2004, jointly with Turner Memorial AME Church, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

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