The ASA, the NRA, and St. Louis

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a recent piece that included the American Sociological Association:

When more than 5,500 association executives hold their convention next month in St. Louis, it will give tourism officials a rare opportunity to pitch the city for future conventions.

From an economic development perspective, the gathering of the American Society of Association Executives, though modest in size, represents the mother of all conventions — because its attendees have the power to bring thousands more visitors to the city, along with millions in revenue, during future conventions. The visiting executives represent groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association, American Sociological Association and Electrical Apparatus Service Association, to name a few confirmed attendees…

Though St. Louis, like many Midwest cities, struggles to compete with tourism meccas such as Las Vegas, New Orleans or Orlando, conventions nonetheless brought about 350,000 people and about $370 million into the local economy last year. And those figures leave room for growth, according to officials with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, who plan to field a sales team to woo as many as 1,500 of the associations represented at the conference…

For people living on the coasts, “St. Louis is thrown into the mix of Midwest cities,” Ratcliffe said. “We need a differentiator.”

This raises some questions:

1. Might this be the only time that anyone from the ASA would even be in the same room as someone from the NRA? Or do these association executives interact more often?

1a. It is interesting that this newspaper selected the NRA, ASA, and Electrical Apparatus Service Association as three diverse organizations.

2. Why not hold ASA in St. Louis? And how exactly does the organization select which cities in which it will hold a conference? Here are the factors the ASA says it uses to select its meeting sites:

  • Sites where members are afforded legal protection from discrimination on the basis of age, gender, marital status, national origin, physical ability, race, religion, and sexual orientation
  • Meeting space–flexibility, accessibility, under one roof
  • Date options
  • Hotel contract provisions, particularly room rates
  • Facilities’ recycling, compostable, and sustainability initiatives
  • Extent of unionization at facilities to be used for meeting space and guest rooms
  • Air access/service and local transportation multiplicity
  • Restaurant proximity and diversity
  • General “city feel”
  • City/Convention Bureau assistance

I would be interested to know exactly how some of these are figured out. And is there an official list of cities that could be approved?

3. Here is a tidbit about the ASA and St. Louis:

Stryker joined ASA in 1948 when he was a graduate student. He attended his first annual meeting in 1950 in Denver, CO. This was when ASA meetings had a sit-down dinner for all attendees. In an interview, Stryker said the proudest he has felt of the ASA was when the Association threatened to cancel its annual meeting in St. Louis because the hotel refused to allow African-Americans to register. The hotel backed down, thus effectively desegregating St. Louis.

4. It is interesting that St. Louis is supposedly off the radar of a lot of associations. At one point, St. Louis was poised to become the main city in the Midwest, leading Chicago in population as late as 1870 and was still the 8th largest city in the US in 1950. Is it simply a population issue now or is it something else: is it not interesting enough, does it not have large enough facilities, is travel in and out not easy/cheap enough? I’m sure St. Louis is like many cities that would want to attract more conventions and bring more money into the local economy.

ASA in Las Vegas update: union reaches deal with Chicago Hilton hotels

The American Sociological Association conference was moved earlier this year to Las Vegas. This was done because the Hilton chain in Chicago did not have a deal with the union of hotel workers. The Chicago Tribune reports today that Hilton “is the first major hotel chain” to reach a deal with the union after 18 months without a contract in place.

I know the ASA had to make a decision at some point and couldn’t wait around for the hotels and unions to reach a deal. Even though Chicago would have been an excellent location, Las Vegas should be fun in its own way.

Las Vegas Sun reports on ASA move to Las Vegas

Last week, the American Sociological Association announced that the 2011 Annual Meetings have officially been moved to Las Vegas from Chicago. This news made it into the tourism column in the Las Vegas Sun with some interesting commentary:

The public usually doesn’t have many kind things to say about unions because of the labor disruptions they can produce. But here’s an instance in which union tactics are playing in Las Vegas’ favor.

Last week, the American Sociological Association announced that it’s going to have its 106th annual meeting at Caesars Palace Aug. 20-23. The reason: A protracted labor dispute involving two Chicago hotels is showing no sign of resolution and the American Sociological Association Council opted against taking a chance that it wouldn’t be solved by August…

It’ll be the first time that the association has met in Las Vegas, and members seem delighted, not only because for the first time since 1990 the organization with 5,000 attendees will be able to conduct its event under one roof but because sociologists find Las Vegas to be interesting laboratory.

“Not only is Las Vegas vibrant and fascinating from a sociological perspective, but it’s also easily accessible for our members across the country,” Hillman said. “When we decided to move our meeting from Chicago, we put an emphasis on finding an alternate location that offered optimum convenience for our members. By selecting Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, we believe we’ve achieved that goal.”

Workers at Caesars Palace have union contracts, but they don’t expire until 2012.

LVCVA representatives have to be happy with the association’s decision, since it’s wanted to get more medical groups to give Las Vegas a try.

The next goal should be to work hard with the association to convince leadership to keep the event here. If the event shows a healthy attendance increase from previous years, the group would have to think twice about returning to Chicago.

A couple of things strike me as interesting in this report:

1. So the sociological meetings can be written off as a research trip? Las Vegas is a fascinating place and it will be interesting to see all of the sociologists out on the town. But most sociological work I have read about Las Vegas, mainly in the field of urban sociology, has been negative. Las Vegas is described as a simulacrum, a fake place that illustrates the worst of American consumption. Perhaps the convention people in Las Vegas don’t care what a group says about a place as long as they are willing to spend money there.

2. Is this report suggesting that sociology is somehow related to medicine?

3. Did the reporter look at how ASA rotates its annual meetings between certain cities? I would be shocked if the meetings are in Las Vegas again next year, not because it is a bad place or has poor facilities but because ASA seems to like to move around.

ASA 2011 Chicago cancellation makes the Chicago Tribune

ASA members received the email earlier this week: the 2011 ASA meetings scheduled for Chicago are going to be moved to a new location. This was the official explanation in the email (and press release):

The contracts between Chicago union hotels and UNITE HERE expired August 31, 2009. Since that time, there have been 11 bargaining sessions but contract negotiations are stalled. We have waited as long as possible to see if the contract situation would be resolved in deference to the importance of Chicago as a venue to the 2011 program. Without any resolution clearly in sight, the ASA Council voted unanimously to move the meeting from Chicago because ASA cannot guarantee that the facilities and environment necessary for our scholarly deliberations will be available.

The Chicago Tribune had a story on this decision on the front page of its business section Friday. While the ASA email was somewhat coy about the reason why the Chicago was not an acceptable site, the newspaper article has the more complete story:

More than 5,000 people were expected to attend the conference at the Hilton Chicago and Palmer House Hilton.

The association’s decision came one day before a one-day strike Thursday by workers at the Palmer House Hilton — members of Unite Here Local 1 whose contracts expired in August 2009.

While the association said the hotels pledged to be able to accommodate the conference, “our members have been concerned that we meet in hotels where workers are treated properly in terms of wages and other working conditions,” Hillsman said.

It sounds like there are some widespread issues between workers and Hilton.

It is too bad this happened as I was looking forward to having the conference be close to home this year. And now the wait is on to see where the conference will actually be held…

Bleak job market in sociology and other disciplines

The job market in sociology is down quite a bit in recent years, according to a report from the American Sociological Association. The results are reported in Inside Higher Ed:

An association report issued Friday shows a 35 percent decline in the number of academic job postings in its job bank between 2008 and 2009, and that drop follows a 23 percent drop between 2006 and 2008, the year that the economic downturn started in full. (While not all sociology jobs are listed with the association, the job bank is a good proxy for the overall market, especially for tenure-track positions.)

While the report holds out hope for coming years, this will be tied to the fate of universities and colleges in general, which are then dependent on the overall economy. If certain pundits are right, such as Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, in suggesting that we may be on the verge of a higher education bubble, the job market could be tight for a while.