Doug Manchester: Crush Organized Labor to Crush Progressives

By Rick Jacobs, Courage Campaign – Nov 3rd, 2009 at 5:40 pm PST

As I write this, we are beginning to hear results from Maine’s version of Prop. 8 and will soon enough hear about right wing attempts to quash freedom in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Washington state. How well we all remember election night here in California last year, that flash of impossible joy and elation at the election of Barack Obama juxtaposed with the horror of the loss of equal rights. How could both be true? How could we elect Barack Obama and simultaneously watch our fellow Californians vote away our rights?

A year later, regardless of the outcome of these elections tonight, the progressive movement is much broader, more determined and smarter. We know what must be done to change the way people think. We know that multiple tactics, ranging from court fights to ballot box battles to marches to push for federal legislation all must happen simultaneously. We also know that those who invest in repression, in damaging families and in singling out LGBT people (or other minorities) for discrimination must be called on their actions and their investments.

I am saddened, but not really surprised then, that Doug Manchester selected today of all days to launch a new website that hides his attacks on progressives and the LGBT community behind the Hyatt global brand.

Lest anyone forget, Mr. Manchester donated $125,000 in the summer of 2008, at the very moment the National Organization for Marriage and Frank Schubert (the fund bundlers and CEO of the anti-equality fights in California and Maine) desperately needed those final dollars to get Prop. 8 on the ballot. That’s right: Had Mr. Manchester not written his check right then, we may well not have had to fight Prop. 8 at all.

The website that Mr. Manchester and his minions launched today does not even address Mr. Manchester’s deep personal commitment to regressive causes. For example, Mr. Manchester “apologizes” for his donation.

“I respect all members of the GLBT community and have several gay and lesbian employees in various departments and professional levels at Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. While I stand by my belief that as a private citizen I may make personal donations to causes and charitable organizations of my choosing, I have been reminded daily that not all such actions are correct or favorable to the company, its employees or the community.”

Does this sound like a man who would not again write a check to prevent lesbian and gay people from marrying? Not to me. More insulting, Mr. Manchester then offers “bribes” to 501-c-3 organizations, the type that may not legally engage in politics, as a way to absolve himself of his “actions [that are not] correct or favorable to [his] company.” If Mr. Manchester really wanted to apologize, he would start by saying, “I am sorry that I put up the money that got Prop. 8 on the ballot because I have learned that what I did caused harm to individuals all over this state and nation. As such, I will donate at least twice that amount now to a campaign to reverse Prop. 8.”

But there’s more. While Mr. Manchester’s website complains about the boycott organized so effectively by Fred Karger and our friends at UNITE HERE along with many, many others in San Diego and beyond (including the Courage Campaign and Equality California), he cynically attempts to divide the LGBT community from our allies in organized labor.

Mr. Manchester and his advisors seem to think that organized labor appeared out of the night, saw the boycott and latched onto it. That myopia is what separates progressives from reactionaries. The truth is that organized labor contributed in excess of $2.5 million to defeat the very Prop. 8 that Mr. Manchester helped place on the ballot. Every labor union in the state openly and officially opposed Prop. 8. They spent their members’ funds not trying to win a progressive victory, but trying to stave off the defeat of another reactionary initiative. So it’s only logical and appropriate that the LGBT community would work arm in arm with our brothers and sisters in organized labor—many of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—to highlight unacceptable working conditions at Mr. Manchester’s hotel. Let us not doubt Mr. Manchester’s true goals. He seeks to defund organized labor in order to prevent it from participating in the political process. The so-called “paycheck protection” effort for 2010, that progressives and organized labor spent tens of millions of dollars defeating in November 2005, will be back on the ballot if Mr. Manchester has his way. This is an excerpt from a Lincoln Club letter of October 7, 2009, three weeks before Mr. Manchester launched his “I like gay people” website:

“If we are unsuccessful in passing the proposition in November 2010, we will have the organization in place to put it back on the 2012 ballot. The unions will be in a much weaker poosition and we will have a finance committee and coalition.

To kick off this campaign the Lincoln Club of Orange County and Doug Manchester have each committed $100,000 to this effort.”

Tomorrow night, there will be another protest outside of the Manchester Hyatt. Based on this insulting website and Mr. Manchester’s determination to undo the very coalition that we’ll need to restore our rights in California, a protest and recommitment to the boycott are the best possible replies. One day, maybe Mr. Manchester will issue a proper apology that will flow from a meeting with the coalition of California’s future.

We have to know our foes as we build our victory.