Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Yoga and the Picket Line


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

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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”