“Hugging Saint” Has A Change Of Heart

Amma Critics Protested In Front Of The Hilton LAX In 2007 & 2008

Amma Critics Protested In Front Of The Hilton LAX In 2007 & 2008

The “Hugging Saint,” Amma, a woman from India that has given hugs to more than 30 million people all-around the world for unknown spiritual reasons has decided to show her love for workers of a boycotted hotel in Los Angeles.

Amma has held her hugging-marathon at the Hilton hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) where thousands of Angelenos have waited in long lines to receive her motherly embrace. But a union that represents hotel and restaurant employees (UNITE HERE) raised hell for Amma and her followers for holding her event at the Hilton, which has been under boycott by workers there since 2006. Workers have asked the public and businesses to not support the hotel due to alleged abuses and intimidation by management for their organizing activities.

Amma’s refusal to move her venue elsewhere brought her a real PR nightmare. The union and its allies in the community, including local clergy, portrayed the spiritual woman as a “hypocrite” for not standing up for the workers at the hotel. Amma defended herself by saying that she doesn’t get involved in political causes but the excuse didn’t satisfy her critics. The negative news coverage followed her whenever she crossed the picket line at the hotel.

Amma is back in Los Angeles this week for her hugging event, but not at the controversial boycotted Hilton LAX. She is receiving her followers at a union hotel just three blocks away. Workers and community have praised the switch to the Radisson LAX, which recently signed a union contract granting workers significant wage increases and free medical benefits for them and their families.

The Coalition For A New Century, the community group that has advocated for the rights of hotel workers said this in a statement:

“LAX Hilton workers endure poverty wages, unaffordable health insurance and unsafe working conditions. They are requesting a fair process to determine whether to have a union.”

“Amma has said, ‘Compassion to the poor and the needy is our duty to God.’  We are glad that Amma practices what she preaches by refusing to patronize a business that is treating its workers without compassion and contributing to poverty through low wages and lack of affordable health insurance,” said Rev. William D. Smart of the Coalition for a New Century on a written statement.

Though there hasn’t been any official statements from event organizers as to why she changed her venue this year, it’s all very clear that moving her event to a union hotel was her way of embracing the workers’ cause.



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