Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hyatt Hotel Boycott Hits the North American Yoga Community

More and more people are starting to organize against injustice across national lines. While offering support to justice efforts in other nations is nothing new, what is fairly new (in the last generation or so) is the increased presence of movements that are linked to an issue, with actions occurring at the same time in multiple nations. The global boycott of Hyatt Hotels is one such movement.

Recently, yoga blogger Roseanne Harvey offered a post linking the Hyatt boycott to the high profile Yoga Journal conferences, which occur at various times across North America. They are expensive events, well attended by primarily economically privileged white women. In and of themselves, despite the presence of quality yoga teachers, they tend to be representative of many common criticisms of modern North American yoga: classism, lack of racial diversity, overly focused on asana, etc.

Harvey's post focuses on the increasing pressure Yoga Journal is facing to join the boycott of Hyatt, and move their conferences elsewhere. I support this effort, and urge readers to check out Harvey's full post, linked above, for more details.

Why the boycott? Here are the four main organizing points:

Hyatt’s subcontracting is destroying good jobs and exploiting immigrant workers.
Hyatt housekeepers suffer abuse.
Hyatt has refused to remain neutral as non-union hotel workers organize.
Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers during a brutal heat wave.

You can read more about each of them here.

I wanted to share a short sample letter that another yoga blogger, Carol Horton, included in a conversation on Facebook. Any reader interested in writing Yoga Journal can use it as a template.

As you may be aware, well-known yoga blogger Roseanne Harvey recently posted an article on It's All Yoga, Baby, explaining that Yoga Journal has been asked to join a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels protesting their exceptionally poor treatment of low-wage hotel workers.

I feel strongly that it would be a huge mistake for Yoga Journal not to join the NFL, NOW, and other groups in supporting this boycott. Beyond the politics involved (which I support), the image of conference goers crossing the picket line is a public relations disaster waiting to happen. It will definitely reinforce all of the negative stereotypes of yoga being only for thin, rich, white women for years to come.

Conversely, if Yoga Journal joins the boycott, it will be in good company and show that it truly supports the idea that yoga is for everybody.

Thanks so much for your time and consideration of this issue.

People of privilege tend to see activism and political efforts as totally separate from the realm of spiritual practice. Appeals to purity, a need for "no distractions," or simply a desire to "transcend" the "worldly" are all excuses I have been told by folks who believe in this separation.

When you are suffering directly from the policies and decisions of corporations and/or governments, it's a lot more difficult to ignore.

In my view, however, there's no separation between the suffering of those who work at Hyatt, and my own suffering. It's all interrelated. And so, even though I am not directly impacted, I am still connected to it. The same goes for those workers and any others oppressed by the anti-gay policies of Chick Fil A. My recent post on Chick Fil A focused primarily on animal rights, health, and the environment, but I was rightly taken to task for appearing to minimize the oppression folks are experiencing because of Chick Fil A's policies and funding of anti-gay organizations. Just as with Hyatt, I am not directly impacted by the company policies of Chick Fil A. I may be at least indirectly impacted by some of their funding efforts however, and in any event, as I see it, the vow to liberate all beings includes speaking out against injustice whenever possible.

Comments and/or additional information any of the issues spoken about above are welcome. May you all be well.


Unknown said...

Thanks for writing about this, Nathan.

Maxine for Gaza Health said...

Here's what I just sent to Yoga journal:

January 21, 2013

Dear Yoga Journal:

Enclosed is our payment to continue our subscription to YJ. However, on this Martin Luther King Day, you must know, that we are continuing our subscription with some trepidation and ambivalence. The reason that we hesitated to renew is that we oppose the position that YJ took in holding its recent convention at the San Francisco Hyatt Hotel where there is a workers action for improved conditions.

Each month we look forward to the wisdom, creativity and increased knowledge that comes to us in each issue of Yoga Journal. We are very strong believers that our yoga done on the mat must reflect our yoga off the mat. We believe your contributors often tell us that.

San Francisco was a time to put your yoga to “the test”. While we understand there was not a strike by the workers, it is clear (and apparently YJ was given ample advance warning of this) that for a long time, the Hyatt workers have been organizing for improved safety on the job, better conditions of work and the right to organize with a union. There has been a lot of national publicity urging travelers and conventions to boycott Hyatt facilities. Yet, YJ chose to continue with it plans and hold the conference at that hotel.

We applaud the yogis who refused to cross the workers informational picket lines and those who gave yoga classes in the street in solidarity with the Hyatt workers. In thinking of ahimsa, doing no harm, and of the great ones who embody the bodysattva way in our times—such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi, we do not think they would have been inside the Hyatt at your conference, but rather standing in beautiful spirit with those outside striving for a just workplace.

Thank you and we hope you will consider the decision that was made and, in the future, look to keeping all Yoga Journal conferences and activities in line with social justice.


Maxine and Ned

Nathan said...

Thank you for posting your letter. I have a renewal sitting on my dresser for YJ. I've long been ambivalent about YJ for it's excessive focus on asana, and lack of consistent depth. But for some reason, I keep re-upping. (Me thinks I'm just a magazine hound.) Anyway, this might be the year I drop it. Especially if they choose to do nothing around the Hyatt issue.