Think about this the next time you stay in a hotel...
Say you’re making a unlivable wage, cleaning up to 20 hotel toilets a day, 6-7 days a week.
Hotel workers usually work alone (although some hotels now have a policy where cleaners must work in paris specifically to protect them from customers) far from the front desk on empty floors.
What’s safer? Keeping the hotel room door closed to block/hide yourself from passerbyers (predators) who may attack you while you do your job?
Or keeping the door open so that you won’t be vulnerable to being held against your will?
The community and labor group coalition, Stand with Women Against Abuse, recommends leaving the door open and wedging your cart into the doorway making it difficult for anyone to enter without making a noise.
Imagine coming to this country, quite possibly “illegally”, and struggling to find an employer willing to overlook your immigration status. If you are lucky enough to find work, you live in constant fear of being caught and deported. Which means you really need this job so when a guest assaults you, you keep your mouth shut.
UNITE HERE Local 1, a union supporting hotel workers, issued a study/survey on sexual harassment in the industry. The report found 49% of cleaners have had guests answer the door naked or purposely expose themselves (at least once…). Many have been offered cash for sex.
Of the 500 hospitality workers included in the survey 58% say they have faced some kind of sexual harassment but experience and reality have taught them that their claims will be ignored, their job at risk and the threat of waking up to I.C.E. at their door increased. The survey estimates that only 33% of workers report harassment and/or assault. For these women enduring inappropriate, repulsive, and predatory behaviour is an everyday occupational hazard.
Imagine all that. But you have no other choice. You may be “illegal”, your english might not be great, you’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay. You’re probably sending money home to support the family you’ve had to leave. You’re definitely working 10 to 12 hours a day in order to complete your room quota (can be as high as 15 - 20 rooms a day). You’re cleaning the toilets, sheets and towels of strangers (Ick) all day long. On top of all that you must be constantly aware and on guard against assault.
Groups like Stand with Women Against Abuse, UNITE HERE Local 1, Hands Off My Pants and others are trying to find ways to protect the hotel industries mostly female workforce. The Chicago city council recently passed "Hands Off, Pants On" ordinance which requires all hotel housekeepers (union or non-union) be given wireless, handheld “Panic Buttons”.
Advocates are pushing for similar measures to be passed/enforced all over Europe* and America* but their efforts are being thwarted by local governments because of money. The Long Beaches Chamber of Commerce decided that the $3M price tag (paid collectively by local hotels) of keeping these hard working, poor and extremely vulnerable women safe was too much.
The pay, working conditions, harassment and assault of women working in hospitality is why we still need unions. Unions are empowering tools when negotiating with owners/management for the right to report workplace abuses, improved protections and increased pay.
Aside from leaving a tip ($5 per night stay - better to do it daily than at the end so each cleaner gets their due) and helping your housekeeper save time to meet her crazy quota by not asking her to change your sheets and towels daily you can look into and support local organizations working to protect some of its communities most vulnerable people.
Think about it….
*The working/living conditions/safety of hotel workers in the “developing” world are all too often non-existent. When visiting these parts of the world your daily tip (be generous!) might be used to pay your hard working housekeeper’s daughter’s school fees, sick/well women/pediatric healthcare, sanitary products, or maybe even a week’s worth of meals.
Just think about it. That’s all I ask….. Thank you.
Article by VERVE Founder & CFO (Chief Feminist Operative) Anna Quick-Palmer