Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘housekeepers’

'Councilwoman' shows Carmen Castillo's inspiring fight as a hotel housekeeper and a city leader

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Providence City Councilwoman Carmen Castillo is a deeply inspiring case: an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, she arrived in the U.S. with three children and got a job as a hotel housekeeper. After she helped organize her coworkers in a union, she ran for city council and won. But Castillo’s fight wasn’t over there, as the documentary Councilwoman—airing Tuesday night—shows.

On the city council, she kept up the fight for better wages, only to have the heavily Democratic Rhode Island state legislature pull a classically Republican move—a Scott Walker move, an Alabama move—by blocking cities and towns from raising their minimum wages. Councilwoman shows that fight, and Castillo’s fight for reelection, all as she continued working full-time as a hotel housekeeper.

Castillo’s story is incredible, and Councilwoman is worth a watch. It will premiere on U.S. television and online at 8 PM ET on Tuesday, September 3, on WORLD Channel’s America ReFramed. You can stream it on worldchannel.orgamdoc.org, all station-branded PBS platforms including PBS.org, and on PBS apps.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on September 2, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

Chicago hotels seem unwilling to meet workers’ demands, as strike stretches into second week

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

The Chicago hotel workers strike has entered its second week, but employees and management don’t appear to be any closer to a resolution.

Workers are demanding year-round health insurance, since many workers don’t have insurance during the slow winter months, when they are laid off. They also want higher wages, more sick days, and more manageable workloads.

Ionela Petrea, a server at Hyatt Regency Bar who is on the worker negotiating committee at the hotel, told the Chicago Tribune last week that there had been two negotiating sessions since the beginning of the strike. Petrea said they were talking about wage increases for tipped workers, heavy workloads, and year-round health insurance, with the last issue being the source of the most contention. Petrea told the Tribune that the reason the hotel is probably dragging its feet on this particular issue because it would be more expensive compared to other requests.

The union argues that the hotel industry can afford to answer the workers’ demands. Sarah Lyons, research analyst of UNITE HERE Local 1, told WTTW, “The Chicago hospitality industry is doing extraordinarily well. Last year there were a record number of visitors: 55 million people. Chicago hotels raked in $2.3 billion in revenue last year.”

The contracts, which covered 6,000 employees, including doorman, servers, doormen, and housekeepers, expired on August 30. The businesses don’t seem any more eager to meet workers’ requests, however. Last week, representatives for these hotels claimed that it was too early in the negotiations process to strike and that workers and management had not reached an impasse. This week, hotels continue to make similar statements and haven’t signaled that they’re willing to meet workers’ demands.

Paul Andes, a Hilton Hotels senior vice president for labor relations, said in a statement to Chicago Reader published on Tuesday that the strike will have “minimal impact” on operations and added, “We continue to provide the service and amenities we are proud to offer our guests and clients every day. We are negotiating with the union in good faith and are confident that we will reach an agreement that is fair to our valued team members and to our hotels.”

However, last week, travelers said that their stay at Palmer House a Hilton Hotel, or as some refer to it, Palmer House Hilton, had a few complications. According to ABC7, towels were piling up, beds were unmade, and check-in lines were long. The same has been true at other hotels during the strike, with managers doing housekeeping and struggling to keep up with the workload. Ernesto Melendez, a Chicago tourist staying at a strike-affected hotel he did not name, said to CBS Chicago, “Our room hasn’t been cleaned for a couple of days. They gave us a notice when we checked in that they weren’t going to clean the room and that’s tough because there’s five of us in the room.”

Some groups holding events have moved their conferences to hotels and other venues where workers are not on strike in solidarity with workers. Last week, the Democratic Attorneys General Association canceled its 200-person policy event at the strike-affected JW Marriott in support of the hotel workers, the Chicago Tribune reported. Howard Brown Health Center, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ people’s health, moved the Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium from its original hotel venue where workers were striking to the Tribune to Malcolm X College.

Some national political figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, have tweeted in support of the strike.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) decided to give a speech at a striking hotel, however, while Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, alderman for Chicago’s 35th Ward, joined the hotel workers’ picket line.

The Democratic candidate challenging Gov. Rauner, Jay Robert Pritzker, or J.B. Pritzker, a venture capitalist, is a member of the family that owns the Hyatt Hotel chain. Pritzker, who received endorsements from 14 unions in May and has sent a number of pro-union tweets, has not tweeted anything about the hotel strike since it began.

Thousands of Boston hotel employers may be next to go on strike. Last week, Marriott hotel workers voted to authorize a strike against Marrott’s eight Boston hotels to demand better pay and benefits, according to WGBH.

“It won’t only cripple the hotels, but it will send a message worldwide that there’s labor unrest in Boston,” Brian Lang, Local 26 union president, said.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on September 19, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Casey Quinlan is a policy reporter at ThinkProgress covering economic policy and civil rights issues. Her work has been published in The Establishment, The Atlantic, The Crime Report, and City Limits.

Hotel Housekeepers: Tipping as Hazard Pay?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

portrait

The New York Times has an article about failure of most hotel guests to give low-paid, hard-working housekeepers a much appreciated tip. Aside from the hard work they do,  the Times also notes the hazards of the job.

Angela Lemus, a housekeeper at the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill who makes $19.91 per hour, said through a translator that in addition to scrubbing tubs and taking out trash, she sometimes has to clean blood or other medical waste from rooms….Desk clerk jobs don’t require the flipping of heavy mattresses or exposure to cleaning chemicals that can lead to respiratory and other health problems. Ms. Lemus, for example, developed an allergy to the latex gloves she was required to wear while cleaning. “It went on for years, and it got so bad my hands started to bleed,” she said. “I couldn’t let people see my hands.”

And let’s not forget musculoskeletal disorders from lifting bed mattresses and the threat of workplace violence from guests.

But are these really the same issue?  Are tips the solution to dangerous working conditions, or is elimination of hazards the solution to safe working conditions?  The Occupational Safety and Health Act says that all workers have a right to a safe workplace, whether they receive tips or not.

Implying the tips make it OK to work in hazardous conditions makes them sound like “hazard pay” and hearkens back to the good old pre-OSHA days where workers allegedly agreed to “assume” the risks of a job in return for a paycheck.

We’ve supposedly come a long way since then. Workers — even hotel housekeepers — deserve a living wage (including tips) for their work, AND workers have right to a safe workplace.

This blog was originally published at Confined Space on October 31, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jordan Barab was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, and spent 16 years running the safety and health program at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

OSHA Warns Hyatt on Housekeeper Injuries

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Image: Mike Hall

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has told Hyatt Hotels what the hotel chain’s housekeepers have been telling it for years—“Hyatt Hurts.”

OSHA issued a formal Hazard Alert letter telling Hyatt that its housekeepers face ergonomic risks every day on the job. The letter outlines steps Hyatt can take to reduce housekeeper injuries.

Pamela Vossenas, UNITEHERE!’s health and safety director, says by issuing the Hazard Alert at a corporate level:

“OSHA is telling Hyatt that the dangers of housekeeping work are real, that there are reasonable solutions and it’s time for Hyatt to put them into practice across the country.”

The letter follows a yearlong OSHA investigation into injury complaints workers filed in 2010. Hyatt once told federal investigators that the workers’ injuries could have been the result of dancing, not lifting heavy mattresses and cleaning as many as 30 rooms a day, as some Hyatt housekeepers do. In one filing, Hyatt wrote:

“The close association of housekeeping with routine life also raises difficult questions about causation. One’s injury is at least as likely to have occurred during non-work activities like sports, dancing or performing routine chores in one’s home.”

OSHA also says Hyatt must keep records on injuries suffered by sub-contracted workers at its hotels.

Maria Soto, a housekeeper at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio who has been injured cleaning rooms, says:

“For years, we have asked Hyatt to make simple changes that would ease the toll on our bodies. Now our voices are being heard, and the federal government is joining us in calling on Hyatt to make our jobs safer.”

Read the full Hazard letter here and find out more from Hyatt Hurts here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on May 8, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

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