Meditate on social justice: Yoga Journal Conference crosses the picket line

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Does inner peace include caring about the wellbeing of the workers cleaning up after your yoga conference? Jury's out in this particular case: this weekend, the Yoga Journal Conference will cross a hotel workers' union picket line for the third year in a row at the Hyatt Regency.

"Yoga Journal has ignored years of outreach from hotel workers and their union and chooses to hide behind logistical concerns in a matter of right and wrong," says Julia Wong of UNITE HERE Local 2, whose union called for a worldwide boycott last year in light of unfair treatment of its workers. Supporters of the boycott include the NFL Players Association. (Check out Rebecca Bowe's post on a recent victory Local 2 scored against the hotel regarding Cal/OSHA violations)

So what's up with the yogis? "For years I’ve looked into moving the conference," says conference director Elana Maggal. But, she told the Guardian in an email, the only other hotel that's large enough to accomodate the 2,000 flexibles forecasted to attend the event -- the Marriott -- was unable at the times Yoga Journal needed. "So [the choices were] either not have an SF conference or hold it at the Hyatt," says Maggal. "We’ve chosen the latter, fully aware that it is not a perfect choice, but hopeful that both sides will finalize the remaining issues quickly and fairly."

The yoga community's not taking the picket line violation in corpse pose. Sean Feit, an instructor at Yoga Tree and other studios around town, created a Facebook event to alert local yogis to Local 2's regularly schedule picket (the union isn't legally allowed to protest clients of the hotel, which Wong says would be a "secondary protest" not protected by labor laws) on Thu/17. Yogis are invited to bring mats for a yoga session in Justin Herman Plaza -- on the right side of the picket line.

"We decided to crash the party in a show of solidarity with the workers," says the Facebook event description. "Because a living wage and health care are fundamental aspects of enlightenment, and because we believe that all the yoga in the world isn't worth a damn if people aren't taking action to make the world better."

The conference will take place at the Hyatt from Thu/17-Sun/21 with classes by celebrity instructors including Deepak Chopra, Seane Corne, and MC Yogi -- a local alt-hero who did not respond to Guardian requests for comment on the picket line crossing. 

For more ways to help the Local 2 workers, check out this blog post by Montreal yogi Roseanne Harvey

Yogi-worker protest against Hyatt

Thu/17, 4pm demonstration, 5pm yoga class protest

Hyatt Regency

5 Embarcadero Center, SF

Facebook event

UPDATE: Seane Corne posted the following statement to her website: 

Thank you to those of you who have reached out to me about my being at the SF YJ Conference this weekend even though there is a boycott of the Hyatt and a labor dispute. Here is where I stand....I plan to teach at the conference, but I will be staying at a different hotel. In the future there will be a clause added to all my conference contracts that acknowledges labor disputes and gives me an out without being in breach. With this said, if there is an organized union picket line out front I will not cross it. I have been in communication with YJ about this and they have been supportive of my position.

Yay! Thanks to the commenter that pointed it out to us.