FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Yoga and the Picket Line

by CARL FINAMORE

Each year some 2000 yoga enthusiasts assemble at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco, California for “a great convergence of yogis of all ages and backgrounds” states convention sponsor Yoga Journal. The extremely liberal and tolerant “city by the bay” seems the perfect spot to spiritually and intellectually delve into yoga principles of social service and physical purification.

“But there is one huge problem,” according to 19-year veteran yoga instructor Sri Louise. “There is a huge disconnect with our ethical values by scheduling a convention at a union boycotted hotel that has a lousy safety record and mistreats it employees.”

A January 17 late afternoon picket by around 150 UNITE-HERE Local 2 supporters made this point loud and clear.

“This has been an active boycott with regular picketing for three years and Yoga Journal has not taken us seriously. But it is very serious that Hyatt has distinguished itself as the worst employer in the industry. It’s the worst of the worst,” San Francisco Local 2, UNITE-HERE union representative Julia Wong told me.

Walking on the picket line with Sri were several other yogis including trainee Stella Ng, a nurse at Summit Hospital in Oakland. “Yoga is for everyone, not just for improving yourself. So social justice is important. And I know how tough it is on housekeepers because I worked as a state employment counselor where workers were trained to clean a room and make a bed in seven minutes.”

Ng’s professional experience dovetails with union complaints against Hyatt for housekeeper abuse, high injury rates and excessive workloads. Wong offered examples to back up the union’s claims that Hyatt is the “worst of the worst.”

Management requires non-union housekeepers in Baltimore to clean up to 30 rooms, more than double Local 2 contract standards; the NLRB is currently conducting a hearing alleging Hyatt retaliation against outspoken employees and, finally, Hyatt leads the industry in contracting out its housekeeping department. It is the Wal-Mart of the industry.”

Just like Wal-Mart, Wong explained, Hyatt wants third-party contractors to perform work so that the “responsibility for the hotel’s rotten safety record and mistreatment of immigrants and women can be passed off to them.”

Absolutely false characterizations, Hyatt spokesperson Peter Hillan told me.

Defending the hotels safety record, Hillan said “UNITE-HERE has filed 12 complaints against Hyatt with CAL-OSHA and the most recent settlement at Fisherman’s Wharf had all the ergonomic complaints withdrawn. We take the well-being of our housekeepers very seriously and we will continue to be diligent about the training and tools they have to perform their jobs safely. These charges and the boycott are part of an overall corporate campaign by UNITE-HERE aimed at Hyatt.”

But critics often accuse Hyatt of concealing its real record by denying problems even exist. This disinformation seems to be borne out by a January 17 San Francisco Bay Guardian online report quoting CAL-OSHA chief counsel Amy Martin.

Evidently, Martin felt compelled to publically respond to Hyatt claims that CAL-OSHA charges were not about injuries to housekeepers but just some paper work process violations. Hillan’s statement to me that the CAL-OSHA settlement “had all the ergonomic complaints withdrawn” seems to also infer only technical violations were noted and that no actual physical injuries were sustained by employees.

On the contrary, Martin’s public statement emphasized in response to Hyatt claims: “Cal/OSHA believes it found plenty of evidence both of injuries sustained by housekeepers, as well as violations of Cal/OSHA regulations. It is technically true that [citations] were withdrawn,” she added in the Guardian account, “but that was the outcome of an in-depth settlement negotiation….”

So there you have it. A convention of respected and honorable yogi masters, instructors and trainees who certainly all agree with the “principle of truthfulness and of being sincere, considerate and honest” but who seem to be unable to agree that it is simply very “bad Karma” to cross a picket line of employees striving for their own peace of mind, respect and consideration from a money-making global corporate giant who just can’t seem to get their story straight.

Perhaps misleading Hyatt executives would benefit from yoga classes themselves but, first, our friends at Yoga Journal should perhaps reexamine their own venerable and heartfelt practices.

Carl Finamore is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians to the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
Rivera Sun
Accountability: An Abandoned American Value
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
Robert Koehler
The Heart of Order
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail