Several San Diego Unified school board members are boycotting segments of an important educational conference, citing a labor boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego.

The California School Boards Association is holding most of its conference in the downtown convention center, but several luncheons are held at the Hyatt. The conference is the annual meeting of the statewide association, an influential body that represents virtually all school boards across California in lobbying in Sacramento. It filed a lawsuit against a new state mandate that all 8th graders take an algebra exam and has vocally protested budget cuts in education.

School board president Katherine Nakamura, board member Shelia Jackson and newly elected board member Richard Barrera, a labor organizer, will not attend segments of the conference held at the Hyatt, which is boycotted by both the labor group UNITE HERE and gay and lesbian groups, according to Nakamura and Jackson. Its owner, Douglas Manchester, contributed to Proposition 8, which banned same sex couples from marrying, and the union’s housekeepers are protesting their work rules.

Another member, John de Beck, said he would not participate in the boycott because he was not spending money on the Hyatt by attending parts of the conference held there.

“There is no income from me going to the hotel,” de Beck said. “There were people who said we should not go. But it’s an issue that has already been decided” when the conference location was set.

The other newly elected board member, John Lee Evans, could not be reached Wednesday afternoon to comment on whether he would participate in the boycott.

Update: Newly elected board member John Lee Evans just sent me an e-mail from the convention. He is also boycotting the Hyatt and only attending conference events at the convention center. “It also saves the district money, because the events at the Hyatt are special luncheons and other events that have extra fees,” Evans wrote.


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