Second Arbitration Decision Goes Against Arisia

Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President of Arisia, Inc., reports the other shoe has dropped — the group will owe another large amount from the Westin arbitration decision on top of the penalties already due to the Aloft/Marriott (“Arisia Suffers Reverse in Contract Dispute with Aloft”). The liabilities resulted from the Boston convention’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels for their 2019 event.

Shectman’s statement tells the precise liability owed to the Aloft, and the amount of the judgment in the Westin case.

This morning, the Executive Board received notice of the fees and interest due to the Aloft in addition to the $44,417.50 award. These total $16,731.71.

This afternoon, the Executive Board was informed that the ADR with the Westin was decided against us. Judgment was set at $50,000 plus fees and interest, exact amount still unknown but probably similar to the Aloft.

This, combined with the loss in the Aloft case, presents Arisia with obligations that far exceed our reserves and expected immediate income. Whether this is a loss in excess of what Arisia can manage depends a great deal on what terms of payment can be agreed. Paying $125,000 is impossible now, but might be possible over some number of years, even with interest.

The Eboard is continuing to consult with legal counsel and attempting to negotiate with Marriott in order to clarify exactly what our options are and what the costs of these options would be. We will keep the membership informed as the situation develops further.

We recognize and appreciate our community’s willingness to support us with additional dollars. Fundraising is likely to be a part of any scenario. We should have more information there within a few weeks. Fundraising details will depend on pending legal questions, so we would prefer not to speculate on what shape that will take until then.

This matter will certainly be discussed at the upcoming corporate meeting on August 22nd. At this time, the Eboard has no motion or recommendation that it plans to bring. Until we learn otherwise, nothing is off the table.

We would also like to thank the Arisia community for its continued support through the uncertain days ahead.  Your enthusiasm is why we do this, and we couldn’t do it without you.

 — Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President, Arisia Inc.

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14 thoughts on “Second Arbitration Decision Goes Against Arisia

  1. I regard this as Arisia being punished for doing the right thing. And yes, I know, contracts, but I also know, arbitration. The large corporate entity rarely loses in arbitration. That’s why they insist on arbitration.

    Arisia even had a won’t cross picket lines clause.

    I’m sure this can be defended in technical legal terms, but this isn’t an equitable outcome.

  2. Centers for Spiritual Living canceled its annual conference one year because of some similar thing and they coughed up the money without lawyers, I believe. This is rough but you have to stand by your principles.

  3. The large corporate entity rarely loses in arbitration. That’s why they insist on arbitration.
    Especially as it’s ordinarily the large corporate entity that pays the arbitrators. There’s a massive conflict of interest baked into the system.

  4. Didn’t the dispute stop long before the event, and the organizers were warned about this? It seems they should have listend and waited.

  5. No, not “long before the event.” Fairly close to the event. Close enough that Arisia didn’t think they could tell a whole bunch of people to change their travel and hotel reservations so close to the convention.

  6. I feel really sorry for the Arisia e-board, since they tried to do the right thing here and were punished for it. And Mariott is a horrible hotel chain anyway, though they seem to have the convention market in the US sewn up. But then, arbitration usually favours large corporations.

  7. @Tsalmoth: the arbitrator who signed the decision is Bonnie MacLeod; the other link points to a Gabrielle Thorp, who testifies that she served the decision — i.e., acted as a functionary, not an arbitrator.

    The arbitrator’s decision is interesting; the substance appears to be that Arisia would have been in compliance with the contract had it walked within 5 days of a newspaper story about the strike, rather than waiting (another ~6 weeks) until what it thought was the point at which the convention had to move or be unrecoverable. From old Scrolls, the Arisia management crisis broke well after the contract’s deadline; I wonder whether anyone on the board had some (undocumented?) timely discussion with the Westin to the effect of “We’re willing to see if you can settle rather than walking immediately.”

    @Lis Carey: why would people have had to change travel plans? The two hotels are not that far apart, and the multi-day parking options are similar; ISTM that the Arisia Innkeeper would have had a similar amount of work no matter when the convention moved. I wonder whether the Park Plaza was demanding a fast decision — which it could have been told was unreasonable.

    @Cora Buhlert: the board may have been trying to do the right thing, but it’s not clear to me they were trying hard enough. We’ve been told (contra @HowardB) that their labor contact denied the hotel’s claim that settlement was imminent, but it’s not clear who they should have believed or whether they could have waited longer before walking.

  8. Time was something of a factor on the Park Plaza end, but not to the point where it significantly impacted the timeline we gave to the Westin. We spoke with staff to determine the last possible date to begin the switch, and it was a tremendous amount of work even with the time we allowed ourselves. We were nearing the point at which our attendees would have been charged deposits, and had the strike continued, we expected a decent number (including staff and corporate leadership) to cancel their reservations before that point.

    I don’t honestly know if the strike would have been resolved as swiftly as it was if we had given the Westin the time they requested. That it WAS resolved swiftly would seem to indicate they were close; but on the other hand, our union contacts said they were not, and our union contacts later told us they thought our decision had convinced Marriott to finish negotiations. The Westin had asked us for more time on multiple occasions. On every previous occasion, the situation had continued to deteriorate. We could not be certain that one last extension would give them time to settle things.

    I think the arbiter’s decision is uncharitable at best. The switch was very much not an attempt to bury the incidents that had rocked Arisia, Inc. in the fall – if anything, it was a fire we had to put out before proceeding with everything else. The arbiter insists that service continued during the strike, but the standard of that service remains questionable, and the arbiter’s decision disregards the fact that an ongoing hotel strike would have meant that some number of our attendees, again including staff, panelists and leadership, WOULD NOT cross a picket line. I don’t know if that would have been a majority of our membership, but I do know the pro-labor sentiment was strong and the pro-labor contingent included key individuals. The arbiter seems to believe that this was some frivolous personal choice which would not have impacted the con. She is, in my view, incorrect, and quotes our archived discussions selectively to support a rather biased view of the situation. Yes – it’s true that there was some view that this was an opportunity to scale down the con, but we had other discussions in which we discussed trying to work with the Westin and Aloft to reduce our commitments. Had the strike ended even a day or two sooner, we would have withdrawn our decision and proceeded with this alternate plan. Somehow this escaped the arbiter’s notice, or she dismissed it as unworthy of her full attention.

    Arbitration is a sucker’s game. There’s a reason corporations favor it. We had hoped that the fact that we got our first choice of arbiters, and that we were splitting the initial cost of the arbiter’s fees with the Marriott corporation (this being something that would be awarded as part of legal fees one way or another), meant we would not be totally screwed. We were wrong. We tried to give the Westin and Aloft as much time as possible to resolve the strike before making the call; we were apparently wrong to do this as well, though I’m sure if we’d canceled immediately they would have argued we just didn’t give them enough time and the strike was bound to be resolved by January. We doubted the strike would be resolved within a day of that last request, or even a few days, and we were wrong. Hindsight is 20/20 – I would make a very different call with the information I have now. Sadly, I did not receive any messages from the future to guide my vote.

  9. @Cassandra Lease: can you say anything about early discussions (if any) between the hotel and the concom? The ratio decidendi as given was that the contract required action within five days of a problem; I can see hoping that the hotel would have settled before a critical date, but I wonder whether anyone thought to notify the hotel that, as a courtesy, Arisia was not invoking the clause immediately but was not prepared to wait forever for the hotel to clean up its act.

  10. Chip, my understanding is that Arisia was in frequent contact with the Westin, which begged it to hold off canceling. They were very aware of it.

  11. I wonder whether that came out in testimony? If the Westin asked for a hold, that cuts the ground out from the arbitrator’s reasoning.

  12. I wasn’t present at either arbitration so I can’t say what precisely came out in testimony. However, we were indeed in contact with the hotel, they knew that we were considering exercising our force majeure clause, and we gave them advance notice of our drop-dead date. They had repeatedly asked us for more time, including once ON the drop-dead date we gave them. As prior requests for more time had not resulted in any visible progress, and we really were on the end of a fraying string with regard to executing the move, we denied that last request.

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