exploited hyatt hotel workers pressure yoga journal & yoga community to support global boycott

Shiva Rea workshop at the 2010 San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference (image via yjevents.com)

A growing movement of hotel workers have organized a global boycott of Hyatt-owned properties – and they’re urging the yoga community to pressure Yoga Journal to not hold their conferences in the high-end hotel.

An anonymous source who works at a yoga studio in San Francisco told IAYB by email, “Three people, at least one of which was a former Hyatt worker, came into the studio yesterday with two flyers. The former Hyatt worker – an African American woman in  her 50s – told us about her experience working at Hyatt. She then said they were trying to pressure Yoga Journal to boycott Hyatt and seeking support in the yoga community.”

The activists appear to be from Hotel Workers Rising. One of the flyers read “Yoga Journal: One With Abuse,” while the “Pledge to Boycott Hyatt” articulates how the practices of the Hyatt Corporation contradict yogic teachings.

By doing business with the Hyatt, Yoga Journal rejects the four aims of life: dharma (duty, ethics), artha (prosperity, wealth), kama (pleasure, sensual gratification), and moksha (the pursuit of liberation). The yoga community calls on Yoga Journal to support the global Hyatt boycott as workers fight for safe and sustainable working conditions, and respect and dignity in the workplace.

Click image to enlarge.

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where Yoga Journal will hold the 2013 San Francisco conference, is on HWR’s Boycott List. (Note: The properties where Yoga Journal will hold the Colorado, New York and Florida conferences are not on the Boycott List.)

Yoga Journal did not respond to my phone calls and emails for comment on their position.

The Hyatt Boycott has been heating up since organizers launched a global boycott on July 23, 2012. According to HyattHurts.org, the hotel chain “has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry. Hyatt has abused its housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers and imposing dangerous workloads on those who remain.”

Many of the workers affected by the hotel’s unfair treatment are women and immigrants. The  call for a global boycott is the latest step the workers have taken to end mistreatment, after speaking publicly about abuses and going on strike.

Click image to enlarge.

The boycott has the support of the NFL Players Association, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Netroots Nation, Interfaith Worker Justice, and many other business and political leaders. To date, more than 5,000 individuals, organizations and businesses have signed the pledge to honour the boycott. Yoga Journal is not among them.

What you can do:
1. Sign the pledge to not eat, meet or sleep in Hyatt Hotels.
2. Contact Yoga Journal’s Communications Director (dmacy@aimmedia.com) and Yoga Journal Events (yoga@horizonconferences.com), urging them to sign the pledge and hold the 2013 Yoga Journal San Francisco conference in another facility.
3. Tweet about the boycott, mentioning @yjevents and @yoga_journal

Further reading: Nathan at Dangerous Harvests, Hyatt Hotel Boycott Hits the North American Yoga Community

  1. Thanks so much for writing about this, Roseanne. From the information that you present here, this sounds like a boycott that’s well worth supporting.

  2. “Yoga Journal did not respond to my phone calls and emails for comment on their position.”

    does that really surprise you?

  3. Who owns Yoga Journal? Conde Nast publishing? You might also try lodging complaints with them. If YJ’s higher ups realize a backlash is brewing, they might crank up the heat on YJ to relocate the conference.

  4. Thanks so much for posting about this Roseanne. While I think it’s premature to condemn Yoga Journal for inaction (it’s unclear if/when they were made aware of this, and there may be action going on behind the scenes that isn’t public yet), it’s a very provocative story and it will be interesting to see how the community responds. I’m reaching out for interviews both with HWU & YJ. Hope to get some more information.

  5. IMO, it would make a stronger statement to email the teachers who are teaching at the YJ conference telling them about this as they would be crossing picket lines. if teachers pull out, there goes the conference.

  6. p.s. and then frankly, you’ll see who walks their talk.

  7. The yoga conference scene is just a simple pro-corporatist love affair between the media and the various providers, and authentic yogis are made to feel like gooseberries. When I ask people why they go to expos they say they meet some really cool people there, so what bemuses me is why the yoga community doesn’t save money by just organising a series of international meetups, a bit like a mela – and stop these corporates from interfering in our lives?

  8. YJ could care less about marginalized and exploited workers. Since when have they ever shown an inclination to support radical causes, union organizing…etc? Their values are close to those of the Hyatt and they’d probably support breaking the strike. They will ignore our pleas, or come out with a watered down statement that says and does nothing.

    Off the Mat and Into the World & Seane Corn will most likely not get involved. Just my prediction. This is too close to home. Real relationships are on the line, powerful forces are in play and sticking up for these workers is risky. Most yogi’s don’t care about these types of causes and that is their constituent base. It could alienate their base even though its the right thing to do.

    This case highlights the important differences between the OTM “fly white people to African for two weeks to become spiritual leaders” model vs. one that is about local relationships and accountability. OTM is now based in SF by the way. If you fly to Africa for a few weeks and then leave, it’s much less likely you will be held accountable to your actions if you screw up. There isn’t as much on the line. But doing something local like this actually means going against the dominant forces of YJ and the yoga scene. It means standing up and risking being wounded. But OTM is a brand and they are first and foremost concerned about protecting and preserving their image and not straining the important relationships they have with YJ and the yoga community.

    Yes, they spoke up during the Occupy movement and that was great, but no serious power relationships were at stake. It merely raised some interesting questions about the relationship between yoga and activism. But standing up to pressure Yoga Journal would be an entirely different ball game. And I don’t just mean issuing a statement either like saying “We support the workers” and then still attending the conference at the Hyatt and not actually using their power to do something. Seane and OTM could actually partake in the campaign and send emails, raise awareness, build pressure…etc. But that won’t happen. It doesn’t jive with their sexy, exotic, touristy model of activism that makes them feel good, look good and brings in money. But I hope that I’m wrong 🙂

    • With localities, and the working poor; that is where the rubber meets the road.

      Can you say, “noblesse oblige?”

    • Thank you so much for your articulate and insightful input! I work with UNITE HERE Local 2 in San Francisco, the hotel workers union that is waging the boycott against Hyatt Hotels, and attempting to pressure Yoga Journal into moving the conference elsewhere.

      You are completely right, YJ has corporate interests, as they have repeatedly ignored the boycott for years, and cross our picket lines with smiles. YJ clearly does not care about the rights of workers, a stance which seems hypocritical to their supposedly spiritual beliefs.

      We here at Local 2 want to build solidarity with the yoga community and the labor movement in SF, and we’re so happy to see people like you exposing the hypocrisy of YJ and their human rights violations. While YJ hold conferences about finding your zen and connecting with spiritual aspects of yoga, the women cleaning the Hyatt hotels are physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually abused daily, on the job. YJ and their keynote speakers, such as Elizabeth Gilbert, attempt to shed responsibility by referencing contractual agreements, but we continuously offer to help them get out of these contracts, an easy and viable solution.

      I would love to talk to you more about this urgent issue and how we can build a network of socially-oriented yogi/activists to overturn the lies and manipulation of YJ and their violation of the boycott. Feel free to email me at rosajshields@gmail.com, tweet me @rosajules, and call the Local 2 office at (415) 864.8770 ext. 777.

      We’re so grateful to have the support of real people like you. Allies in the local community are imperative to the struggle. Keep up the good work!

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