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    Boycott of Hyatt Hotels: Should a Social Work Organization Cross the Picket Line



    by Deona Hooper, MSW

    (From left) the Revs. Marti Scott, Chuck Dauhm, Michael Shanahan and C.J. Hawking line up (risking arrest) in support of Hyatt workers in Chicago. A web-only photo by Luis Juarez

    (From left) the Revs. Marti Scott, Chuck Dauhm, Michael Shanahan and C.J. Hawking line up (risking arrest) in support of Hyatt workers in Chicago. A web-only photo by Luis Juarez

    A controversy has been brewing within the social work community, and the Society for Social Work Researchers (SSWR) have found themselves at the center of it. In January 2014, SSWR will be having their 18th annual conference which will be held at Hyatt Hotels in San Antonio, Texas. Over the past few years, Hyatt Hotels have continued to be boycotted globally as result of worker’s rights violations and labor disputes involving their treatment of hotel service employees. On October 3rd 2014, a petition was created urging Jeanne Marsh, President of the Society for Social Work Researchers, and its board to reconsider having their annual conference with Hyatt Hotels.

    In just a two week period, the petition received over 500 signatures from people all over the world while simultaneously creating a buzz on various social media outlets. After receiving emails from social workers expressing their concerns, I decided to reach out to the Society for Social Work Research, the labor union Unite Here, and Shane Brady the originator of the petition. The first person I interviewed was Dr. Jeanne C. Marsh who is the President of the Society for Social Work Research as well as Director of the Center for Health Administration Studies at the University of Chicago.


    Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Society for Social Work Research has found itself in the middle of a boycott dispute. In 2000, the SSWR annual conference was being held in Charleston, South Carolina which was also under economic sanctions by the NAACP due to the State’s choice to fly the confederate flag over the Capitol Building. According to an article written by former SWWR President Allen Rubin, he reflected on the precisive measures taken by the organization in dealing with the circumstance before them which included:

    1. We issued a press release on a resolution to the governor of South Carolina, unanimously passed by our board, which includes the following statement: “that the [Society] shall NOT hold any future meeting . . . in the state of South Carolina until such time that the Confederate Battle Flag is removed from positions of sovereignty in the state of South Carolina.”

    2. We urged conference participants to sign a petition to the governor of South Carolina, which includes the following statement: “We, the undersigned non-residents of South Carolina, vow NOT to visit the state of South Carolina again for any purpose whatsoever—not for vacations, professional meetings or any other reason—until such time that the Confederate Battle Flag is removed from positions of sovereignty in the state of South Carolina.” After the conference ended, we submitted the petition to the governor.

    3. We offered a free conference exhibit booth to the NAACP, and they accepted our offer.

    4. The NAACP is developing a data bank of information on individuals who cancel vacations planned for South Carolina.We asked all conference participants who were planning such vacations to cancel them and let the NAACP know about the cancellations for their data bank.

    5. A featured speaker at our conference banquet was the Reverend Joseph Darby, vice president of the South Carolina Conference of Branches of the NAACP and chairman of the South Carolina Coalition of Black Church Leaders. Reverend Darby delivered an informative and stirring talk about the issue of the Confederate battle flag and received a standing ovation. Read Full Article

    However, the current policy makers with SSWR have decided not to use the model created by their predecessors. Instead, they have chosen to handle the current issue differently.

    Interview with Dr. Jeanne C. Marsh

    SWH: How long has the SSWR Board known about the  Hyatt Hotels Corporation and UNITE HERE?

    Jeanne: The current SSWR Board learned about the situation when we were contacted by UNITE HERE around February/March 2013. Since that time, the Board has been actively involved in monitoring the evolving situation in San Antonio and communicating with SSWR members about it.  (See attached communications to SSWR members.)

    SWH: What is the specific nature of the recent agreements reached between Hyatt Hotels Corporation and UNITE HERE?

    Jeanne: On July 1, 2013 Hyatt Hotels Corporation and UNITE HERE issued a joint press release (see attached press release) which “announced a national agreement that resolves longstanding disputes between the two organizations.”  The agreement addresses the settlement and ratification of union contracts by Hyatt associates at specific hotels in San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  Once approved, the contracts will provide retroactive wage increases and maintain quality health care and pension benefits.  The contracts would be retroactive from 2009 and be in effect into 2018.  Upon ratification of the union contracts, UNITE HERE will end its global boycott of Hyatt.

    A part of the agreement is to establish a fair process, which includes a mechanism for employees at a number of Hyatt hotels currently without union contracts to vote on whether they wish to be represented by UNITE HERE. At this time the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is not unionized and there are no contract negotiations that we are aware of between Hyatt Hotels and UNITE HERE at this property.

    SWH: What are implications of the agreement for labor/management relations at Grand Hyatt San Antonio?

    Jeanne Many of the agreements reached are relevant to Hyatt properties that are currently unionized (in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago).  Since the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is not currently unionized the primary agreement reached relevant to that property define the rules for voting – if and when the workers decide they want to unionize.

    Since the end to the global boycott of Hyatt, UNITE HERE in San Antonio has maintained a local boycott at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio and other non-unionized properties and continues to actively organize.

    SWH: What are the implications for SSWR 2014 conference to be held at Grand Hyatt San Antonio?

    Jeanne: The SSWR Board voted not to terminate the contract with the Grand Hyatt San Antonio based on the appraisal that financial penalties of $491,088 that would put SSWR out of existence. Please note that the contract with the Grand Hyatt San Antonio was signed in 2009 and is the final contract SSWR has with Hyatt Hotels.

    SWH: How is SSWR responding to the labor/management relations at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio?

    Jeanne: The SSWR Board is moving proactively in three directions:

    (1)  Understanding that the situation with UniteHere and the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is evolving, the SSWR Board will continue to work hard to gather and communicate with members and non-members the most up-to-date information about the situation.

    (2)  The Society books its hotels approximately four years in advance. We currently have contracts signed with the Marriott in New Orleans for 2015, the Marriott inWashington, DC for 2016 and the Marriott in San Francisco for 2017.  All hotel contracts are currently under review by the SSWR attorney to ensure terms are consistent with SSWR policy related to avoiding contracts with hotels engaged in current or pending labor disputes.

    (3)  A special session is planned at the SSWR 2014 meeting for the SSWR Board to discuss with SSWR members the current status of the situation, the complexities of the issues, and to hear members’ concerns.

    For more information, SSWR members have been encouraged to contact the UNITE HER representative , Rachel Melendes, at 210-2242-1520 and with Managing Director of the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Toom Netting at 210-451-6501.

    A copy of the statement issued to SSWR members outlining the above can be viewed here. Also, I was provided with a joint press release by Hyatt Hotels and Unite Here announcing a tentative plan to end the boycott against Hyatt Hotels which can be viewed using this link.

    As you can tell from the picture above, faith based organizations and community leaders have been very active in the boycott against Hyatt Hotels. They have complied a report outlining the working conditions at Hyatt Hotels which can be viewed below:

    [gview file=””]

    Email with Unite Here

    I reached out to Unite Here and requested a status update regarding the boycott of the San Antonio Hyatt Hotel location. I received a response from Rachel Mendes of Unite Here stating,

    The boycotts of the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency in San Antonio are continuing, and new boycotts may be called at additional Hyatt properties. Workers at these two properties are asking people to honor the boycott and not eat, sleep, or meet at these hotels, and move events to a venue not in a labor dispute.

    This agreement has shown us that when workers and allies stand together, we can move forward and win justice and respect on the job. As an organization of social workers, SSWR needs to do the right thing for the San Antonio workers and community by honoring the boycott until workers here are treated with the justice and respect they deserve.

    San Antonio Grand Hyatt Boycott Email
    Interview with Dr. Shane Brady

    After speaking with Dr. Marsh, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Shane Brady, the originator of the petition, who is also an adjunct professor with the social work department at the University of Michigan. Dr. Brady was an invited presenter at the 2014 annual conference, but he has chosen to decline as a result of these issues. He is also a first generation Phd graduate with roots as a community organizer focusing on social justice and LGBT issues.

    In the petition, Dr. Brady acknowledges the contractual obligation SSWR has with Hyatt Hotels, but he raises some important additional concerns. He states,

    The Society of Social Work Research Conference has a contractual obligation to hold the 2014 conference at Hyatt Hotels, despite the injustices experienced by workers of the San Antonio Grand Hyatt. It is the stance of UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers of the Grand Hyatt of San Antonio, and a group of us within social work and similarly allied professions that it is unethical to hold the SSWR conference as planned at the expense of perpetuating the injustices experienced by Hyatt workers by giving our business to Hyatt Hotels. Please sign this petition and send a message to SSWR leadership to cancel this year’s conference, change venues, or push the leadership of Hyatt Hotels in San Antonio harder to do the right thing by workers. In the words of Paulo Freire, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”  Sign the Petition

    Dr. Brady stated that he has spoken with many of his colleagues who have expressed their empathy for the workers, but stated they did not want to get involved. What does this mean if social work professors and leaders within the social work community feel no obligation to advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations? In doing my due diligence, I had some additional concerns that I needed to ask Dr. Marsh about.

    Follow-Up Questions with Dr. Marsh

    SWH: Being that the organization has dealt with a similar situation in the past, why not use the same strategy?

    Jeanne: The SSWR Board recognizes that many social work (and other) organizations have encountered similar issues when planning conferences. In order to learn from these experiences and draw on the significant expertise in the social work field, the SSWR Board has developed a Leadership Panel for the SSWR 2014 conference with representatives from major social work organizations including the Council on Social Work Education, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education, the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work, the American Academy for Social Work and Social Welfare.  The Chair is University of Washington Social Work Professor Nancy Hooyman who was SSWR President when the SSWR Conference was held in South Carolina** during the period the state was flying the Confederate flag.  The charge to the group in the short term is to provide the Board with their recommendations of actions we can take to address the situation.  In the long term, the group will reflect on strategies all social work organizations can consider in avoiding and addressing similar situations in the future.

    SWH: Was there an attempt to negotiate with Hyatt to release SSWR from its contract?

    Jeanne: Yes, the Board was able to re-negotiate the contract to eliminate the food and beverage cancellation fee but not the overall cancellation fee of $491,088.

    SWH: The Chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corporation sits on the Board of Trustees for your University, is this a factor in preventing the organization from using the same plan of action when it encountered a similar situation in the past with the NAACP?

    Jeanne: The University of Chicago has a strong tradition of academic freedom where faculty pursue their work without outside interference or influence including from Trustees of the University.  I am aware that Mr. Pritzker is a University of Chicago Trustee, but I have had no contact with him. It also is my understanding that the Pritzker family no longer owns Hyatt Hotels as a result of a breaking up Pritzker family holdings a couple of years ago.

    Leave Your Comments

    I tried my best to represent the point of view of each party involved. Now, I am interested in your point of view. Do you feel SSWR is properly handling this matter or do you feel more could be done? Please, leave you comment on this page, so others outside of the social work community can add to the conversation. Is having an internal conversation with other social work researchers at the annual conference enough?

    Photo Credits: Courtesy of Dignity at Work and


    Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


    Network Successfully By Asking Five Smart Questions



    The only thing I ever got from a networking event was a stack of business cards until I changed my mindset. When I was a new social worker, I underestimated the value of connections related to my ability to boost my social work income. I only thought that networking could improve my upward mobility. Now as a seasoned social work veteran, I understand that networking is a tool for building meaningful business relationships. Meaningful business relationships fundamentally increase opportunities to boost social work income using part-time jobs or second gigs.

    Trainings, workshops, or association meetings are the easiest venues for social workers to connect with other social workers. Social workers should also consider events that are not exclusively sponsored by or for the social work profession. Non-social work events provide an expanded opportunity to meet like-minded people outside of the profession. Plan to increase your chances for success. Begin by asking the following question.

    What networking outcome do I want to achieve by attending this event?

    Answering this question outlines your primary focus for participating in the event. Attending a training or seminar enables you to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for licensure purposes and professional development. Earning CEUs, in this example is the outcome that you pay to achieve.  If you have thoughts of collaborating with other social work professionals, the training environment connects you with other social workers who have similar interests in that specific subject.

    A meet and greet networking event allows you to interact with professionals at various levels of their careers. Keynote speakers and experts attend promoting their products, services or theories. Hundreds of professionals exchange business cards and information about their ventures. These large events sound promising, but can also cause frustration. Many people try to speak to the headliners in an attempt to sell themselves. Headliners are those individuals who are extremely successful in their specific field. When their name is spoken, people acknowledge their expertise and work.

    At networking events, headliners are surrounded by people who want something from them. It may be an autograph, a picture, a job or a mentorship. They limit the amount of time they spend with those who are not at their level. They place a monetary value on their time and know how to preserve their time, energy and expertise.  This is a lesson social workers should learn. Your time has a monetary value and you can waste time and effort at networking events without research and strategic planning.

    Who are the influencers in the headliner’s circle? How can I build a connection with them? 

    This question can be answered with a little research. You almost always guarantee yourself an opportunity to meet and speak with a headline by building a business relationship with those in the headliner’s circle. Successful networking is precipitated on communicating win-win outcomes. Each person wants to feel they are gaining from the interaction. This is another reason that knowing your outcome and having a plan makes sense.

    How many colleagues will I approach?

    Once you are in the environment, the fourth question you should ask addresses how to achieve your desired networking outcome.  Set a goal for yourself related to the number of people you plan to approach. You are more likely to talk to others if you set a goal before you arrive.  You may also develop an estimate prior to arriving. Set your estimate using knowledge of the advertised business areas or topics. You may also reassess the goal based on your observations during the event. Do not underestimate the opportunity to talk with others while waiting in line.

    Estimating the number of attendees by business area or topic will help you establish a reasonable goal for interactions. Having a strategy for initiating interactions is also important. Start by talking to the individuals sitting near you. Beyond the basics, ask them how they plan to use the information or how they plan to integrate it into their current work. This moves the chatting from small talk to meaningful conversation.  Listen more than you talk to show your interest. Also, share your plans for using the information. Ask probing questions, as appropriate to help you decide if you want to explore connecting on a professional level.

    Does this information resonate with my professional vision, mission, and goals?

    While this question sounds self-serving, it saves time and effort. Social workers who want to boost their income using part-time work and second gigs know the value of time. They, like headliners, set a monetary value to their time. If the person with whom you are talking does not appear to have a congruent vision, politely move on.

    Meet and greet networking events are very similar to speed dating events. Smart questions, smart answers and strategic planning facilitate getting the outcome you desire. If you are not hearing things that resonate with your vision, mission or goals, then move on. Always remember that just because you want to build a relationship, it doesn’t mean the other person reciprocates. Recognize and respect the signs and signals you receive.

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    How to Turn Your Social Media Followers into Active Donors



    In marketing, we know that carefully curated and compelling content moves people.

    We see this every day on social media, where viral campaigns compel people to take action every day.

    There’s no doubt that well-crafted social media content can turn followers into active donors. Nonprofit fundraising campaigns have raised millions of dollars, such as Charity: Water with $1.8 million and the ALS ice bucket challenge with $115 million.

    The good news is that powerful content can be harnessed to activate a nonprofit’s social media followers to take action and give.

    The not-so-good news? Creating and curating compelling content isn’t always easy.

    But it’s important—even critical—for nonprofits to maintain active and engaging social media accounts not only to raise awareness and build brand, but to also drive donations.

    Social is Everywhere and Everything

    Experts project that there will be three billion social media users by next year. That’s close to half the global population.

    A good chunk of social media users are known to check in sometimes by the hour or even the minute on top sites like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

    While people of all ages use social media, there’s no doubt that younger generations are typically the first adopters.

    This is important for nonprofits, because younger people use social media to support and donate to their favorite causes. According to this blog post, 43% of millennials made charitable contributions through social media compared to other channels.

    Nonprofit Source also finds that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media take some sort of action, such as donation.

    Knowing this, how can a nonprofit fundraising team turn social media followers into active donors?

    Tips on How to Activate Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit through Social Media

    You gain followers by posting content consistently daily or twice a day.

    Your content should include a healthy mix of inspirational videos, photo features, donor spotlights, action alerts, motivating statistics, memes and more. Your content can include direct appeals for donations too. Just make sure to balance them with other content.

    To build your following faster, consider devoting some budget to sponsoring content, including boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram. Boosting posts can cost as little as $25 for a campaign and can allow you to target specific users, ensuring that your posts wind up at the top of the right people’s feeds.

    You accomplished the seemingly impossible: you built a following of engaged fans on your social media pages.

    But they’re not giving.

    How do you convert these loyal social media followers into active donors ready to give?

    Awaken and engage your social media followers with calls to action. Create content that tells your story through video and animated gifs. Suggest they give even a small amount to your campaign to help solve the problems you’ve illustrated. Remind them that every little bit helps. Most importantly, make it as easy as possible for them to give.

    Make Action Easy
    If you’ve succeeded in moving your social media followers to take action, but then made it impossible for them to donate easily online, you’ve lost a big opportunity to raise funds.

    Make the process of donating in a few clicks safe, secure and seamless. Add an easy-to-use, secure donation management plugin like DonorBox to your website and directly link to your donation appeal on your social pages so your followers can donate in a couple clicks.

    Make It Shareable
    Understand the psychology behind social sharing and tweak your content to see what your followers are most likely to share. You’ll not only increase your following, but also inspire your new fans to follow their friends’ lead and also make donations to your cause.

    Coming up with a creative campaign with inspiring events, videos and strategic hashtags around a moving theme can also turn those lurkers among your followers into active donors ready to share and give.

    The shelf life of a social media post is only a few days or weeks at best.

    This means that even if you’ve had a huge success, it’ll just be a matter of time before your viral campaign is a distant memory for most people.

    Try to maintain your followers’ interest by creating different types of social media campaigns that can be run seasonally. Think strategically and make data-based decisions. Test different ideas to see what works best. Study the analytics made available by the different platforms to see who is engaging and sharing.

    This Medium blog post offers some helpful tips for strategic ways to maximize fundraising through social media.

    One not-so-small caveat: while it may seem like raising more than a million dollars via a viral social media campaign is the be all, end all of fundraising, you may be cannibalizing other fundraising efforts in your success. The best thing you can do is weave a social media component into an omni-channel campaign. Social media may be just one element of your fundraising strategy, and that’s okay.

    Want more? These five successful nonprofits got it right using social media to drive donations.

    About DonorBox
    Used by more than 20,000 organizations from 25 countries, DonorBox is a donation platform centered around the fundraising needs of nonprofits by offering a state-of-the-art, recurring donation plugin that can be seamlessly embedded into a website or with a popup widget, allowing nonprofit organizations to accept monthly recurring donations managed by the donors themselves.

    View a live example and sign up for free at

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    Corporate Social Responsibility Is More Than a Marketing Ploy



    For-profit companies traditionally operated within a set of rules dictated by the government, such as collecting and paying taxes or meeting state and federal regulations. Everyone accepted profit maximization as the goal, and it didn’t really matter how companies managed to achieve that mission.

    Today, many judge companies based on their broader impacts and whether they contribute to beneficial change. It’s definitely a positive shift, but new businesses must strike a delicate balance: Too much of a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) for a new brand over the effectiveness of the product or service can actually damage brand appeal. Researchers at North Carolina State University found that consumers view new brands as less enticing when their key messages focus on CSR more than the benefits of their products, even if they donate money to good causes.

    While consumers want to support brands that give back to the world, they are more concerned about the efficacy of new products. And who can blame them? Nobody wants to spend hard-earned money on a subpar product. When product quality is equal but one item comes from a company with a social mission, customers are more likely to choose the company with a focus on CSR, though.

    Patagonia stands out as an excellent example of effective CSR. The company aggressively incorporates environmental causes into its corporate DNA — and its customer base is just as aggressively loyal. Volkswagen, on the other hand, went out of its way to greenwash its corporate image by promoting “clean diesel” while flagrantly violating federal emissions laws with nitrogen-oxide emissions (a smog-forming pollutant linked to lung cancer). The disparity between VW’s mission and its actions had steep consequences.

    Finding the Right Fit

    CSR should be authentic to the soul of an organization — it should not be an add-on or a marketing ploy. Before committing to CSR, brands need to survey potential customers and brand ambassadors to ensure they focus on the right initiative.

    For smaller companies and startups, this could constitute a more informal process of casual interviews with a few dozen people coupled with the founders’ personal goals. Established companies will want to undergo more extensive research that includes surveys and in-depth focus groups with employees, customers, and potential customers. In both cases, companies must confirm that the CSR initiative resonates with potential customers while identifying any concerns that could alienate critical groups. Without genuine authenticity, it’s only a matter of time before an initiative fails — it’s imperative that the CSR mission resonates with the company, its staff, and its executives.

    Patagonia earned plenty of attention in 2016 for donating 100 percent of its profits from Black Friday sales to environmental groups. By literally putting its money — more than $10 million, in fact — where its mouth is, Patagonia proved its dedication to protecting natural resources. Considering a large swath of Patagonia’s clientele is environmentally conscious, that single day of sales truly resonated with brand loyalists.

    Once a company pinpoints the CSR initiative that meshes with its identity, its leaders must articulate the CSR mission internally and externally. That mission will likely evolve, but it should be authentic to ensure long-term success. A genuine effort at CSR initiatives can be a great way to motivate and empower employees.

    Internal CSR messaging focuses on culture and creating a universal message across the company. Everyone should understand the overlap between the CSR initiative and the company’s mission, as well as how the initiative affects every employee’s role. Externally, brands must simplify this messaging into an easy-to-understand version for consumers.

    I’ve had to tackle this challenge with my own company, 2920 Sleep. We have boiled down our CSR focus to three elements: a commitment to product quality, excellent customer service, and 1% for the Planet. We aspire to make high-quality, long-lasting products that will have a reduced environmental impact with lower return rates; take care of our customers with great service; and stay financially successful so we can channel one percent of our revenue to support organizations that protect the environment. Our commitment to product quality and customer service enables us to support our CSR initiative. This mission is driven by everyone at the company — from our leadership and marketing teams to our customer service department and our brand ambassadors.

    More than anything else, brands should ensure the CSR narrative is a part of the corporate culture. Think again of the difference between Patagonia and VW. Patagonia’s founder, management team, and employees all actively support its mission. VW, meanwhile, has lost brand integrity and market share, and its executives face significant fines and possible jail time.

    Consumers can spot the difference between pretenders and companies that are committed to a mission. CSR offers an opportunity to pivot a business from a purely financial operation to an organization that recognizes its ability to help a wider community in addition to meeting financial goals. With a balanced approach to CSR and business goals, companies can truly shine.

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