For immediate release
September 16, 2021
With Unemployment Benefits Expired, Housekeepers Slam Hilton for Reopening with Reduced Cleaning Services and Fewer Jobs for Women of Color
NEW YORK – Hotel housekeepers in eight cities across the U.S. and Canada will mobilize to protest job cuts at Hilton hotels throughout International Housekeeping Week (Sept. 13-19). With unemployment benefits expired, housekeepers say that Hilton has reduced cleaning services in order to avoid putting housekeepers back on the job. Overwhelmingly women of color, housekeepers in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Washington, DC, Boston, and more will greet guests outside their hotels to welcome them back and urge them to ask for daily housekeeping at check-in, meet about the issue with onsite management, and wear buttons saying, “We want to clean your room every day.”
As tourism has come roaring back, Hilton is taking advantage of pandemic disruption to end automatic daily housekeeping and eliminate housekeepers’ jobs. “The work we’re doing right now… is about [making hotels] higher-margin businesses and creating more labor efficiencies, particularly in the areas of housekeeping,” Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said in February 2021. “When we get out of the crisis, [hotels will] require less labor than they did pre-COVID.”
Industry analysts question whether switching from automatic to opt-in daily housekeeping could lead to hotels charging guests extra for this standard service. “The bigger question that still remains unanswered is whether or not guests will eventually have to pay for housekeeping services,” hotel consultant Rachel Roginsky told the Boston Globe.
UNITE HERE estimates that the hotel industry’s plan to end daily housekeeping would permanently slash the U.S. housekeeping workforce by up to 39 percent and cost housekeepers up to $4.8 billion in annual lost wages. Women (88.6 percent of housekeepers) and people of color (73 percent of housekeepers) would be hardest hit. Because rooms are much dirtier after days without cleaning, it would also make housekeepers’ workloads even more painful.
“I want to get back to work because without my job, I have to go to a food bank to feed my kids,” said Mary Taboniar, a housekeeper at Hilton Hawaiian Village. “These changes are bad for workers and guests — and they’re not inevitable. Housekeepers in my union UNITE HERE are fighting back, and together we can bring back the jobs that our families need.”
“Housekeepers are sounding the alarm about this job heist because housekeeping jobs are the backbone of the service economy, and taking these jobs away means that many working families and especially communities of color might never recover,” said D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE. “The hotel companies said they couldn’t fill jobs because unemployment was too high, but now it’s expired – and housekeepers are still fighting to get back to work. Hilton wants to get back to full occupancy without ever bringing back its full workforce, but we’re determined to win a recovery where everyone comes back stronger.”
Reduced cleaning, permanent job cuts, and unsafe workloads are not inevitable. UNITE HERE has secured daily room cleaning requirements in key markets including New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more, and will continue working to ensure that guests and housekeepers across the U.S. and Canada can expect daily disinfection. Learn more in UNITE HERE’s “Playing Dirty” report.
UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers’ union in the U.S. and Canada, representing over 300,000 workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, airports, and more. Ninety-eight percent of its members were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sixty percent remain out of work today.