Housekeepers are organizing for safe and secure workplaces.
"Guests should treat us, the housekeepers, the same way they treat their mothers or their sisters or any woman they value."
Hortensia Valera, Chicago Housekeeper
"I have to deal with pain every day."
Celia Alvarez was a room attendant at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach for 19 years before becoming permanently disabled.
"When I started in 1990 we only cleaned 16 rooms. Several years ago, Hyatt decided to implement the "Refresh Program," and since then housekeepers at my hotel have to clean up to 30 rooms in one eight-hour shift. Now many women have gotten hurt. I am injured and have to deal with pain every day. I ask that Hyatt eliminate the Refresh Program because it is hurting our bodies." "I have to deal with pain every day."
Room Attendant, Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, 20 years of service.
"After slipping on a bathroom floor covered in water, I badly injured my knee. After some treatment, I thought I was better. Then, about two years after, I started experiencing extreme pain. Finally, I had to have surgery. The whole experience made my life very difficult. So far, I still feel pain while I work. My doctor asked me, "Why if you have pain, do you go back to work?" Because I need more money. With three kids and a house payment, I cannot afford the money from disability. So even with the pain, I have to continue to work."
"Two years ago, I was out of work for 6 months due to a work related injury on my shoulder. It was difficult for my family because my income went down to less than half."
Room Attendant, Hyatt Santa Clara, 10 years
"On September 4, 2009, I felt severe pain in my right shoulder and arm as I tucked in the sheets. I went to a doctor and then was assigned to do "light" duty. I did not recover. I still work 8 hours a day cleaning rooms in painful anguish. Now I only have the full use of my left arm. Every night I wake up from the pain and cannot go back to sleep for 2 hours. I have to now only use my left arm to eat with a fork and knife. When I take a bath I have to only use my left arm. Many of my co-workers work with injuries. We all deserve a safe work place."
Across North America, housekeepers are coming forward to share their stories and fight for change on broad spectrum of unseen dangers, from security concerns to debilitating injuries that women sustain from doing years of cleaning work.
Housekeepers are getting hurt
Studies show that hotel workers have an injury rate 25% higher than all service workers, and among hotel workers—housekeepers experience the highest injury rates. In a survey of over 600 housekeepers, 91% of housekeepers reported having suffered work-related pain. Nearly all housekeepers are women, and research shows that women are 50% more likely to be injured than men who work at hotels. Latina housekeepers are twice as likely as their white counterparts to get injured on the job.
Over time, cleaning hotel rooms can lead to debilitating injuries that in some instances require surgical intervention, physical therapy, or lead to permanent disability, like the loss of the full use of one's arm. Hotel housekeepers face the risk of injury due to heavy workloads. Lifting mattresses that can weigh over 100 pounds, pushing heavy carts across carpeted hallways, bending up and down to clean floors and make beds, and climbing to clean high surfaces all take a physical toll.
In a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examining a total of 50 hotel properties from 5 different hotel companies, Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate of all housekeepers studied when compared by hotel company.
At some Hyatt hotels, room attendants clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is commonly required in the industry. This workload leaves room attendants as little as 15 minutes to clean a room—that's 15 minutes to make beds, scrub clean the toilet bowl, bathtub and all bathroom surfaces, dust, vacuum, empty the trash, change linens—among other things.
Rushing to complete the work takes a dangerous toll on workers' bodies, in some cases leading to permanent injuries. Injured workers must often choose between continuing to work in pain or not working at all. A tough decision in today's economy.
Housekeepers are ending the silence on sexual assault
Thanks to the courage of the housekeeper at the Sofitel New York, a curtain has been pulled back on the world of sexual misconduct that housekeepers sometimes face from guests. Backed by a union of hotel workers, the Sofitel housekeeper has reported assault, taking on one of the most powerful men in the world--Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Inspired by her stand, more housekeepers are coming forward to share their own stories and launch a campaign to break the silence about the routine sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse that housekeepers face at work.
While sexual assault is uncommon, housekeepers' stories reveal a pervasive pattern of harassment and unsafe working conditions for the women—predominantly immigrants—who work in the industry. Among other things, women routinely endure indecent exposure and other indignities from male guests.
Too often, hotels have been complicit in the culture of silence around this issue, telling housekeepers that the guest is always right. Now women are standing together to say we have the right to a safe and secure workplace.
Simple solutions can make the difference.
Hotels can take simple steps to reduce the health and safety risks associated with housekeeping work.
To prevent pain and injuries, things as common sense as fitted sheets, like we use at home, save women from lifting heavy mattresses repeatedly over a day. Long handled mops and dusters, rather than rags, mean that room attendants don't have to get down on their hands and knees to clean the floors or climb on bathtubs to reach high surfaces. A reasonable room quota means room attendants aren't forced to rush around, risking slips and falls. These changes can mean the difference between healthy bodies or hurt housekeepers.
To address security concerns, some housekeepers are also calling for common sense solutions, like working in teams at night, increased hotel security, panic buttons to wear in the event of an attack, and pants uniforms in place of the more traditional dress uniforms in housekeeping.
In cities across North America, hotel housekeepers to make changes, leading countless public demonstrations and organizing for greater workplace protections. In California, they have testified before the State Senate, pushing for legislation that would require employers to provide the tools they need to do their jobs safely. In New York, UNITE HERE is supporting legislation to provide panic buttons to employees so that hotel security can be immediately summoned in the event of a problem. In November 2010, housekeepers in eight cities filed coordinated complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration--the first multi-city OSHA filing in the private sector. OSHA has begun to release their findings, already citing several Hyatt hotels for health and safety violations.
To date, OSHA or its state counterparts have issued 15 citations against the Hyatt at ten hotels and 3 citations against one of the Hyatt's housekeeping subcontractors at one of those hotels, alleging violations of safety regulations that protect housekeepers and other employees. The agencies have proposed fines totaling $95,405.00 between Hyatt and its subcontractor.
Get the Facts About Hotel Injuries
Get the Facts