How much food can $125,000 buy to feed the hungry? How many books would it buy to help children? How much medicine can it buy to help the sick? How many better uses of $125,000 are there than using it to take away marriage equality from millions of Californians?
San Diego hotel owner and developer Doug Manchester must be asking himself these questions each and every day since the coalition of GLBT groups and labor came together one year ago this Gay Pride weekend to launch a boycott of Doug Manchester's two San Diego hotels: the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Grand del Mar Hotel. (www.boycottmanchesterhotels.com) Manchester's good buddy Terry Caster persuaded him to give that enormous check on Jan. 18, 2008. Manchester's contribution provided enough money to hire a professional signature-gathering firm to begin collecting the 1.1 million signatures necessary to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot. These two high-powered San Diego businessmen were two of the biggest contributors to Proposition 8. Caster, who owns A-1 Self Storage Company, ended up giving $693,000 to Proposition 8, and the coalition has boycotted his company too. (www.boycottA-1selfstorage.com)
Do these two bullies expect gays and lesbians and our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and supporters to continue to patronize their businesses, only to have that money used against us? They sure got that wrong.
The Boycott of Doug Manchester's Grand Hyatt Hotel has cost him at least $7 million -- not a very good return on his investment. His flagship hotel is now a pariah. More than a dozen major conventions have canceled their meetings at his hotels, representing more than 100,000 room nights. There is really no telling how much business Manchester has lost the last year due to the boycott. The Manchester Grand Hyatt will forever suffer the stigma of its owner's $125,000 contribution.
Manchester has tried to buy his way out of the boycott twice. Ten days after the boycott began, he offered up money, but did not include any labor component in his "settlement" offer.
Then, in February, he hired gay Los Angeles publicist Howard Bragman, after an incredible new round of bad publicity: Former President Bill Clinton was forced to honor a speaking engagement at the boycotted property, resulting in international news stories that drew even more attention to the beleaguered hotelier.
Bragman's PR plan tried to circumvent boycott organizers by offering $100,000 in hotel credits to San Diego GLBT groups so that they would hold fundraisers at the boycotted hotel. That dumb idea of "divide and conquer" backfired with another round of bad press. No one would accept their blood money. They couldn't even find an organization to take the additional $25,000 in cash they offered to a national GLBT group, because the community is unified like never before and backs this boycott.
They chose to announce their offers before the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association's annual meeting in Toronto, Canada, in May. That announcement, by Manchester's Marketing Director Kelly Commeford, backfired, too, when he was booed and hissed off the stage at the Hyatt-sponsored luncheon. It triggered another round of bad press for Manchester, and a lot more publicity about the boycott. At least half of the attendees were from out of the county and had not heard of it until Kelly's speech.
Now we enter year two of our partnership with labor and with so many more new allies in our fight for full equality.
We will soon be announcing our new and exciting plans for year two of the Manchester Boycott.
The gay and lesbian community is in the fight of our life, and we are not going to take it anymore. We want the world to know who supports us and who opposes us. Then consumers can make informed choices on where to spend their hard-earned dollars. We at Californians Against Hate will continue to ask them not to support these two mega donors to Proposition 8, which yanked away our brand new freedom to marry on Nov. 4 last year.
Visit our Web sites, and spread the word. Thank you one and all for making these boycotts so successful. We will continue to fight for our civil rights using our immense economic clout. We will no longer settle for being second-class citizens. Those days are over.
Orriginally Published in the GLT, San Diego