In light of the Strauss-Kahn and other assault controversies, housekeepers in cities across North America hold public events, speaking out against abuses at work.
On June 2, hotel housekeepers in eight cities across the country held coordinated speak-outs to break the silence on the dangers of their jobs, calling on the thousands of housekeepers across the country to do the same. Inspired by the courageous stand taken by the housekeepers in New York against some of the most powerful men in the world, 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.
Hotel housekeepers–overwhelmingly women, immigrants, and people of color–are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry. While incidents of sexual assault are uncommon, women routinely face indecent exposure and other indignities from male guests. Housekeepers have come forward with stories from across North America that reveals a pervasive pattern of harassment and unsafe working conditions for the women who work in the hotel industry.
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.
"It’s dangerous work," said Yazmin Vazquez, who works at a hotel in downtown Chicago. "These customers think they can use us for anything they want, because we don’t have the power that they have or the money that they have."
Standing together, housekeepers are also demonstrating that a union is a powerful tool for workers when harassment and other hazards occur. In New York and elsewhere, many safety measures are already in place for union hotel workers, who know they can report incidents to their superiors without the fear of reprisal.
As part of the action, housekeepers are recommending a number of common sense preventative measures to help them feel 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 the legislation recently introduced in the New York State legislature to provide panic buttons to employees to use in case of emergency.
See below for links to news and videos.
- Post-DSK, New York hotels revisit staff protection, June 8, 2011. Reuters
- Hotel workers unleash their fury on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, June 7, 2011. The Guardian
- Housekeeper Will Testify on Sex Assault, Lawyer Says, June 6, 2011. New York Times
- Housekeepers protest as Strauss Kahn arrives at New York court, June 6, 2011. Washington Post
- There Once Was a Union Maid, June 6, 2011. American Prospect
- Hotel Housekeepers Share Tales of Sexual Harassment, June 3, 2011. ABC
- Hotel workers demand bosses protect against assault from guests, June 3, 2011. Globe and Mail
- Accusations Of Sexual Attacks On Housekeepers Could Change Hotel Security, June 3, 2011, KTVU
- Hotel Housekeepers Demand Security Amidst Naked Guests, Assaults, June 3, 2011. Fox
- Arizona Hotel Workers Speak Out Against Guest Misconduct, June 3, 2011. Public News Service
- After IMF chief scandal, Hyatt workers protest sex abuse, June 2, 2011, San Antonio Express-News
- Housekeepers speak out about safety concerns they face on the job, June 2, 2011. WGN
- Hotel workers speak out about sexual abuse, June 2, 2011. ABC Chicago
- After Hotel Attacks: Panic Buttons, June 1, 2011. Wall Street Journal
- In New Case, Boss Is Suspended for Not Reporting Housekeeper’s Abuse Claim, May 31, 2011. New York Times
- Did Housekeeper’s Union Membership Allow Her to Speak Out Against Strauss-Kahn?, May 25, 2011. In These Times
- Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the union maid, May 24, 2011. The Guardian
- NY Case Shows Daily Dangers Faced By Hotel Maids, May 21, 2011. NPR
- In wake of Strauss-Kahn arrest, hotel housekeepers say jobs often make them wary, May 21, 2011. Washington Post
- For Hotel Housekeepers, Sexual Affronts Are a Known Hotel Hazard, May 20, 2011. New York Times