By Page May
July 22, 2011

On Wednesday a group of housekeepers with the UNITE HERE union visited the NETWORK office. We listened to their stories of exploitative working conditions at various hotels around the country. Several of the women discussed the long hours working at backbreaking speeds for no overtime pay; high stress conditions; the lack of appropriate work tools for housekeepers which has led to chronic pain; and an unsafe environment.

Their visit was part of a larger campaign- Breaking the Silence. This national campaign aims to raise awareness to the many abusive practices that housekeepers must face every day and create safer worker conditions .

“Hotel housekeepers- overwhelmingly women, immigrants, and people of color- are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry…The women who work as housekeepers routinely face a broader spectrum of dangers at work, from sexual harassment to the debilitating injuries that many women sustain after years of making beds and scrubbing floors…. Sexual assault is one of a range of hazards that housekeepers experience. The rate of injury among hotel workers is 25 percent higher than among service workers overall. Among hotel workers, housekeepers have the highest rate of injury—50 percent higher than hotel workers overall.

Their campaign is garnering support for unionization and a number of “common sense preventative measures to make their work safer, such as increased security staff, working in teams, and replacing the traditional dress uniform with a pants and tunic uniform. In addition, the union fully supports two pieces of legislation recently introduced in New York that would 1) provide panic buttons to employees to use in case of emergency 2) require hotel and motel owners and operators to provide comprehensive sexual harassment awareness training.”

For more information on safety concerns that housekeepers face, visit www.hotelworkersrising.org/injuries/.

Booking a hotel room? You can use this guide to find a union hotel where UNITE HERE members are employed. You’ll be supporting good union jobs and safer conditions for housekeepers! Click here to find out what hotels to avoid on our boycott list.

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