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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail