Amma, 'Hugging Saint' of India, Stirs Controversy Over Refusal to Honor Hotel Boycott

Tikkun Editor Rabbi Michael Lerner Declines Award From Internationally

Renowned Spiritual Leader, Citing Her Unwillingness to Move Event

Southern California Hotel Giant LAX Hilton Faces Allegations of Assaulting


Jun 15, 2007, 01:00 ET from UNITEHERE! Local 11

    LOS ANGELES, June 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amma, the
 internationally famous spiritual leader known as the hugging saint of
 India, is embroiled in a controversy over her refusal to move an event from
 a hotel at the center of a major labor dispute in Southern California.
     According to UNITEHERE! Local 11, the hotel and restaurant workers
 union, Amma arrives in Los Angeles Sunday as part of a ten-city U.S. tour,
 and will spend five days at the LAX Hilton. The second-largest hotel in
 Southern California, the LAX Hilton is the subject of a boycott endorsed by
 dozens of elected officials and religious and community leaders throughout
 the state.
     The hotel has aggressively fought efforts by its employees to organize
 a union, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to oppose a living wage
 law for 3,500 hotel workers near LAX and has been charged with more than a
 dozen alleged labor law violations, including physically assaulting and
 threatening violence against workers.
     Despite appeals to Amma and her event coordinators over the past
 several months, she has been unwilling to move her event. Amma's refusal to
 honor the boycott has attracted attention from prominent religious leaders.
 Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun Magazine, announced this week
 that he is declining an award from Amma because of her decision not to
 respect the LAX Hilton boycott.
     "Amma, there is no possibility of creating a more loving and caring
 world that I know you are so committed to so long as spiritual leaders like
 yourself fail to link spiritual ideals to concrete social justice for poor
 and working people," Lerner wrote in a letter sent to Amma.
     For decades Amma has traveled the world, attracting large crowds who
 stand in line for hours to receive her embrace. She has reportedly hugged
 more than 25 million people, and emphasizes the ideals of love and service.
     "Amma has said, 'Compassion to the poor and the needy is our duty to
 God.' If she really believes this, she should not patronize a business that
 is treating its workers without compassion and contributing to poverty
 through low wages and lack of affordable health insurance," stated Rev.
 Alexia Salvatierra, executive director of Clergy and Laity United for
 Economic Justice (CLUE), one of the largest faith-based economic justice
 organizations in the nation.
     "I received a hug from Amma a few years ago," says Isabel Brentner, a
 housekeeper at the LAX Hilton who slept on the sidewalk for a week in
 December as part of a fast in support of the living wage. "Her decision to
 stay at the hotel disappoints me deeply. I still have hope that she will
 reconsider and choose to stay at a hotel where there isn't such injustice."
     CONTACT: Danny Feingold, +1-213-977-9400 ext. 109, +1-213-675-8960