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CEO Message About Sheraton Strike

November 12, 2018

Dear GSA Meeting Participants,

The GSA family looks forward to seeing you in Boston later this week, where 4,000 researchers, clinicians, educators, and stakeholders in the aging field will gather for the 2018 GSA Annual Scientific Meeting. Registrants from across the U.S and three dozen other countries will participate in five days of scholarly interactions and networking.

As has been communicated previously, one of our three meeting venues — the Sheraton Boston Hotel — is currently under a labor strike. While GSA hopes this situation will be resolved prior to the start of the Annual Scientific Meeting, the timetable for resolution is unknown. The hotel has taken steps to ensure that all activities related to the Annual Scientific Meeting will be fully supported so that scientific sessions, networking events, etc., can proceed. GSA encourages participants to follow their conscience regarding participation in sessions taking place at the Sheraton.

Please note that if the Sheraton strike is still underway during the Annual Scientific Meeting, some speakers may choose to forgo participation in sessions at the hotel. As such, some sessions may have fewer than expected speakers and some sessions may not occur as scheduled.

Program changes communicated to GSA will be published in the electronic meeting addendum as they are received. (When accessing this PDF document online, please hit your browser's refresh button to make sure you are viewing the latest version.) Thank you for your understanding.

GSA respects the opinions and values of all of its members and attendees and endeavors to provide a meaningful experience for all Annual Scientific Meeting participants.
See you in Boston!

Sincerely,

James C. Appleby, BSPharm, MPH
Chief Executive Officer

November 9, 2018

Dear GSA Members and Meeting Attendees,

This is a follow up to my communications last week about a strike taking place at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, one of three venues for GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting.

Although the strike organized by Unite Here has been resolved in two other cities, the timetable for resolving the Boston strike is unknown. While we hope it will be resolved in the near term, here are the top three things you should know about how GSA is addressing this situation.

GSA urges the end of the labor strike at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

The GSA leadership and staff have been working diligently to manage the many implications of the ongoing strike. GSA leaders have been in close dialog with one another throughout this process and have conducted one-on-one calls with members who expressed concern about the strike. All of us are concerned about the impact of this strike on the individuals involved and their families. GSA has been working with the organizations it has contracts with to exert pressure on them to resolve this issue quickly. We have also spoken up for the rights of the workers to be treated justly, met with Union members in person, and welcomed member discussions on GSA Connect about ways to support the workers.

GSA has thoroughly explored options for relocating sessions scheduled at the Sheraton.

We have thoroughly investigated possible alternative venues for the 215 sessions — in addition to pre-conference workshops and networking events — scheduled at the Sheraton. We investigated space available at other hotels and the Hynes Convention Center. There are several other major conferences overlapping ours in Boston, including one with 15,000 attendees using 29 hotels, and another expecting 3,000 attendees at the Hynes Convention Center. There simply isn’t space to relocate these 215+ sessions which feature 800 speakers.

All members’ values are respected.

GSA respects the opinions and values of all of its members and nearly 4,000 meeting attendees. We wish to provide a meaningful experience for all at the Annual Scientific Meeting, where more than 2,370 speakers will share their research. We encourage you to follow your conscience regarding your participation in sessions taking place at the Sheraton.

Speakers electing to withdraw from a scheduled session must email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Sunday, November 11, at 6 p.m. Eastern time so that the session information available in the mobile meeting app can be updated prior to meeting attendees arriving in Boston. This will enable meeting attendees who wish to hear the presentations (and earn CE credit) to adjust their schedules accordingly.

Thank you again for your understanding as GSA works to provide members with a valuable meeting experience in the midst of a difficult situation.

Sincerely,

James C. Appleby, BSPharm, MPH
Chief Executive Officer

November 2, 2018

Dear GSA Members and Attendees,

We have been alerted that some of you have been receiving calls from Unite Here, a union currently participating in a strike at the Sheraton Boston Hotel and other properties in several cities around the U.S. The Sheraton is one of three venues for our upcoming 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston.

The union callers are contacting individuals urging them to boycott the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting. They have also been pushing our members and attendees to call or email me personally as a disruptive measure to pressure GSA to move or cancel the meeting. Organizers of other Boston conferences report that they are experiencing similar tactics.

This escalation of personal, sometimes perceived as intimidating, calls to our members and attendees is not acceptable to GSA, especially as the Society has expressed support for the union employees’ cause. If you receive a call that you consider in any way threatening, and can determine the originating phone number, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible. Please note that some of the information being shared by the callers is incorrect and misleading — including the implication that they received contact information from GSA.

GSA did not and would never release your phone number or contact information without your explicit permission.

This week I posted a letter [see above] on the GSA website that talks about how GSA has addressed the strike. The GSA staff has been in regular contact with the Sheraton management to stay on top of the situation. We have exerted pressure on the Sheraton to resolve the dispute. We have spoken up for the rights of the workers to be treated justly and welcomed member discussions on the GSA Connect about ways to support the workers. GSA has thoroughly investigated possible alternate venues, including moving sessions to the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. There is also another conference scheduled in town that week at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center with 29 contracted hotels for an expected 15,000 attendees. GSA determined that it is not possible to relocate its 215 sessions, which include more than 800 speakers, scheduled at the Sheraton.

On October 31, I met with union representatives here at the GSA office in Washington, DC, and engaged in open and robust dialog with them. I expressed GSA’s ongoing concern about the impact of this strike on the individuals involved and their families. I let them know that GSA is contractually obligated to use the Sheraton property in Boston, and that we do not have an option to move the meeting given its size. I also reiterated that the Society would be reviewing contracts for upcoming events at Sheraton and Marriott properties considering this strike. Given the concrete steps GSA has taken, I was surprised that union members began calling GSA members the day following our meeting.

GSA does not have a formal policy or position related to unions, but we recognize and respect that many of our members and attendees have deep experience in this arena — particularly because you are passionate about issues related to older worker employment, retirement security, access to health care, social justice, and public policy.

GSA has made the decision to uphold its contract with the Sheraton and continue the events scheduled there. The Society remains committed to its mission and the meeting’s goal of advancing research on aging. As an open, transparent, professional membership organization, GSA respects the views of its individual members. We encourage you to follow your conscience regarding your attendance at sessions taking place at the Sheraton.

Your experience and safety throughout the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting are my top concerns.

Additional steps have been taken to ensure you can make the most of your time in Boston if the situation is not settled before you arrive. Here is what we know now:

  • There are 23 hotels in four states with employees who are members of Unite Here on strike. The Sheraton Hotel Boston is among them. Not all employees of the Sheraton Boston Hotel are participating in the strike. Additional staff have been brought in from other properties to maintain normal operations of the front desk, parking, food and beverage outlets, housekeeping, and meetings/events. Updates from the hotel management, and from other meeting planners with events preceding ours, have reported no significant interruption of guest or meeting services.
  • The GSA meeting’s other two venues, The John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center and Marriott Boston Copley Place, are not affected by the strike.
  • There are demonstrators outside the street-level entrance to the Sheraton. Uniformed police are also present. Guests are allowed to enter the hotel undisturbed, and we have received no reports of any physical confrontations. Demonstrators are not present at the Sheraton’s entrance to the Prudential Center, which also connects to the Hynes Convention Center and the Marriott.
  • The calls from the union appear to be random and unrelated to where an attendee is staying, or whether or not the recipient is even registered for the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting. We believe, supported by reports from other meetings experiencing similar tactics, that the union is looking at information available through the GSA website and Annual Scientific Meeting Program Book/Mobile App, and then using internet resources to search for contact information. Again, they have not been provided contact information by GSA or any of our partners beyond what is publicly available.
  • Out of an abundance of caution, we are increasing security measures. While wearing your GSA attendee badge while at the meeting has always been required, staff will be checking more closely this year. Please be sure you are wearing it during all activities. Likewise, please be sure to remove your badge when you leave the facilities.
  • We are working with all GSA meeting venues to ensure security is sufficient and visible. We are exploring additional ways to increase security presence to increase attendee comfort and sense of safety.
  • We will continue to provide updates on the strike, as available, in advance of the Annual Scientific Meeting as well as onsite in Boston.

I want to personally reiterate that our team is committed to delivering a positive experience for everyone in Boston. We have more pre-registered attendees than any previous GSA Annual Scientific Meeting. We are sorry that some of you are receiving unwanted calls and will answer any questions or concerns you may have about the strike and your participation. I look forward to seeing you in less than two weeks.

Thank you for your understanding as GSA navigates this difficult situation.

Sincerely,

James C. Appleby, BSPharm, MPH
Chief Executive Officer

October 31, 2018

To GSA Meeting Attendees,

The GSA team looks forward to seeing you in Boston from November 14 to 18 for the 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting. As this is the first GSA Annual Scientific Meeting in 24 months (the Society hosted the IAGG World Congress of Gerontology & Geriatrics in July 2017), we are expecting more than 3,500 participants this year.

I am writing to let you know that the Sheraton Boston Hotel is currently experiencing a labor strike that began on October 3. While GSA has been active in communication with the hotel management and strongly urges them to resolve the strike, there is no clear timeline as to when this will be resolved. If the strike continues through our meeting dates, the hotel is committed to ensuring the meeting can proceed as planned. They have taken the following steps to ensure service to presenters and attendees is uninterrupted:

  1. Staff has been deployed from other hotel properties to maintain normal operations of the front desk, parking, food and beverage outlets, housekeeping, and meetings/events.
  2. Hotel staff has endeavored to maintain a respectful relationship with demonstrators, who are in a single area outside and are not interfering with guests. Officers are stationed outside of the hotel and at the entrance of the Prudential Center (which connects the hotel to the Hynes Convention Center).

GSA appreciates these actions but also recognizes this does not resolve the underlying issues with the striking union. Further, we respect the right of our attendees to show support for the workers. GSA President David Ekerdt has spoken with union representatives. While this matter is beyond GSA’s control, we continue to encourage the hotel to seek an immediate resolution. Hotel management has been informed that the issue will impact our meeting because some attendees will refuse to enter a property where a strike is occurring. We have emphasized that hotel employees deserve to be treated justly, and that they have greatly contributed to positive meeting experiences for our attendees in the past.

The 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting comprises 450 scientific sessions spread over five days and three venues, including more than 215 sessions at the Sheraton. As the Sheraton is one of our key venues for scientific sessions this year, GSA has explored options for moving the sessions at this property to another location. Over the past several weeks, the GSA team contacted several nearby hotels and the Hynes Convention Center to see if it would be feasible to relocate the 215 sessions, involving more than 800 speakers, from the Sheraton. However, it was determined that this rearrangement would not be possible, as appropriate space is not available, and sessions being rescheduled would create many new speaker conflicts.

GSA respects and honors our members’ values. We are committed to supporting members in advancing their research. Thank you for your understanding as GSA works to address the difficult situation into which we have been placed.

Sincerely,

James C. Appleby, BSPharm, MPH
Chief Executive Officer

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