I wasn’t going to blog during SfN, possibly ever again. I hid this site last week specifically because I didn’t need people at SfN looking it up and seeing me making dumb mistakes and writing about basically just drugs. But I clicked from Private to Public just for this.
THERE IS A HOTEL STRIKE GOING ON. I wrote to SfN about it, which is purely symbolic, but even as I plan on sleeping at a hotel on strike tonight, I would like to make this letter both public and open and therefore hopefully NOT just symbolic. Please circulate if you know any ethical neuroscientists or people who work for Marriott, I guess. Please also let me know where and how exactly I am being a dumbass, I know you will.
I am writing about the hotel strike going on at the Westin in the Gaslamp. I hope I am not making you aware of this, but instead am one of many voices you hear from about this.
I am always excited to attend SfN in San Diego, and this year I was lucky to find a roommate in my colleague, cc’d here. I have stayed at Westins before and had a good time, I was happy with the booking he made. Recently in Oakland, CA I had walked past the Marriott strike, where they were yelling long into the night. I said that if I were the Marriott, I would give them whatever they wanted immediately, for lots of reasons I won’t go into just yet.
When we showed up at the Westin San Diego, I was unaware it was owned by Marriott and the target of a major action. Furthermore, my heart and stomach sank as I realized that we were just two of many neuroscientists who would find themselves in this situation for SfN. To my great delight, I have found neuroscientists to be people sympathetic to the struggles of laborers to be heard and who have shown themselves to be always learning and improving on fronts like, well, child care and lactation rooms, most immediately here at SfN. More broadly speaking, I know this community to have a preponderant sense of duty, kinship, and commitment to trying to understand the whole rainbow of brains and their owners here on this earth. That is why I am writing to you, even, is because I think you might understand.
Here are some of the things the strikers are chanting: “Don’t check in, check out.” “All day, all night. Something something something something.” “One job should be enough.” “Si se puede.” “If you’re staying at the Westin, shame on you.”
For the last couple of days, we have been doing shady things like cowering in our room eating cookies and popcorn, sneaking out via the back stairs despite being on the 7th floor, and glaring at the perfectly nice employees (scabs?) opening the door for us. We have read the strikers’ demands. While reading, one friend said that the echoing repetition outside our windows sounded like the calls to prayer in Istanbul outside. “Don’t check in, check out.”
We checked in and will be checking out, as scheduled, tomorrow, mostly because we are lazy cowards who didn’t want to deal with the corporate structures involved in funding this hotel stay, but also because there were holes in our reasoning. It’s SfN, a lot is going on, and only now in this bar writing am I reassessing. The hole in our reasoning was that I read that
they were not doing cancellations, but to be honest, I am now looking up their policy and questioning whether we actually _could_ have easily pulled ourselves and our dollars, if not for the first night, but then for the second two nights, of our stay. We are not perfect either!
But so: Here is what the Westin employees said to me: “Your room is on the back of the building, away from all the noise.” “Sorry about all the noise, ma’am.” “Have a cookie and some popcorn, ma’am.” And when I asked for a manager, I got the smooth good listener dude who had checked us in. He listened passively for so long that I finally asked if there was anything he wanted us to know. And then here’s what HE said: “We are actually one of the nicer hotels in that they are unionized here at all [CITATION NEEDED] and the people you see outside are actually professional protesters.”
Here, I have condensed and filtered through a memory we all know to be unreliable, but bottom line is, I knew I was not dealing with a friend here. I can provide his name, if it matters or helps.
This sucks and it would be great if SfN could make some sort of large donation to their union or threaten to cut the Westin off from all future annual meetings or throw your weight around in other explicitly monetary ways about future meetings and somehow end this strike. This is all complicated and I am ignorant as hell about it, but not as ignorant as I was a few days ago, and more ignorant than I would have been if I had, say, skipped David Tank’s talk today. I am trying to have it both ways, in a completely unsustainable and unrealistic way.
As it turns out, the demands the strikers are making are super reasonable and no part of me can imagine it is even economicaly worth it for this particular hotel chain to sandbag them, given that is sounds, I will remind you, like the calls to prayer outside every room of their frigging Gaslamp location. We know
that Bernie spoke there. We know
it hurts local businesses. We know
that their demands are concrete and achievable for anyone in touch with the laws of time, space, rent, wages, housekeeping, sexual harassment, and just generally being a decent person. We know
that they reached a deal in Oakland. They can do it here if you pressure them.
For now, I am planning on making a donation to the strikers’ union, encouraging others to do the same, and trying to work up the courage to maybe bring the strikers donuts when I finally do check out. It feels woefully inadequate, cheap, and terrifying.
Thanks for listening, I hope, actively. Talk to you soon. Your pal,