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Claremont Boycott Supporters Chide Health Guru for Crossing Picket Line

Tuesday July 20, 2004

Relaxation isn’t just for the rich. That was the call from boycott-supporting protestors outside the Claremont Hotel Friday as the well-known health guru Deepak Chopra held a weekend seminar at the luxury resort and hotel. 

Organized by the East Bay Inte rfaith Committee for Worker Justice, some 75 protestors gathered outside the Claremont’s west gate, striking warrior yoga poses and concentrating on their breathing as bemused motorists headed home. 

The protestors’ main gripe was Chopra’s refusal to hono r the ongoing boycott of the hotel led by the Oakland-based Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 2850. For almost two years the union and the hotel have been in a labor dispute over a union contract. 

Chopra is a leader in health and well ness programming, especially known for his mix of Eastern and Western medicine. He is a licensed medical doctor but also promotes a form of eastern holistic healing developed in India known as Ayurvedic medicine. Protestors demanded that Cho-pra, as some one concerned with health, acknowledge workers at the hotel and spa who are struggling with their own well-being, including their need for sustainable wages and affordable health care. 

“We find that it is a kind of pseudo-morality that he can speak about leadership and have spas where workers don’t get health care,” said Jim Stockton, the yoga teacher leading the poses. 

For eight months the Interfaith Committee has tried to meet with Chopra about the Claremont and the La Costa resort and in Carlsbad whe re his business, the Chopra Center, is based. In particular, the Interfaith Committee asked him to use his leverage with the two hotels to help settle their disputes. 

After the group cornered him at a local Bay Area book signing, Chopra asked them to follow up through e-mail or phone calls but—according to the group—did not respond when they met his request. 

Chopra eventually sent a letter to the group which said management at La Costa told him they were “unwilling to have [him] involved in this matter." 

“If they want me involved in any mediation effort, I will be happy to participate. I can not force anyone to have me involved if it is not their desire,” he wrote.  

The committee wrote back telling Chopra that his connection to management was clear an d that his excuse was re-stating the obvious because no business would want him to intervene in a labor dispute. 

They summed up their position in an earlier letter by saying, “We are concerned by what we perceive to be an inconsistency between your philo sophy and your actions, specifically your business practices and partnerships. How can you preach oneness and solidarity while you are in a strategic business partnership with a corporate entity that has little to no regard for the humanness and basic dig nity of its workers?” 

A representative from Chopra’s center did not return an inquiry from the Daily Planet about his position by press time. 

Protestors, after winding down their yoga session, demanded to meet with Chopra, who—according to representativ es from the Claremont—was unavailable. Even after constant questioning by a nun dressed in her full garb, Claremont representatives would not budge. As protestors turned away, one lead a chant that they hope Chopra would hear. 

“Who do we want?” he shouted. “Chopra!,” the crowd responded. “Who do we want,” his questioning raised to yell. “Chopra!!,” the crowd walloped.