For immediate release
April 14, 2010
Latina Housekeeper Injuries Spotlighted at OSHA Summit
Gathering outside national conference with 150-foot "Hope Quilt," housekeepers say: "Stop the pain at work for Latina housekeepers and all hotel housekeepers"
Houston, Texas–Nearly 50 hotel housekeepers from across the country are traveling to Houston this week to participate in OSHA’s National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety, a national conference sponsored by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Housekeepers are participating in the Summit to bring visibility to the high rates of injury for hotel housekeepers–in particular Latina housekeepers and housekeepers working at Hyatt Hotels. The focus of the national conference, featuring keynote speaker Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, will address workplace safety issues faced by Latino workers.
Just prior to the start of the OSHA Summit, housekeepers and Houston religious leaders, joined hands to bless the Hope Quilt, a 150-foot quilt made by housekeepers from across North America. The quilt stitches together the stories of housekeepers and the pain they endure everyday just to provide for their families. Each patch symbolizes a story of pain or injury brought upon by the heavy burden of their workloads.
A landmark study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in February 2010 finds that for US hotel workers, injury rates are higher based on sex, race/ethnicity, job and hotel employer. Among its findings, the study indicates Latina housekeepers had almost double the risk of injury of white housekeepers doing the same job.
Dr. Susan Buchanan of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the article, called the injury rates for Latina workers in hotels "alarming."
The report also shows that among the different job classifications in hotels, housekeepers face the highest rate of injury. "The excess risk among women probably reflects the fact that so many of them work in the very demanding job of room cleaner," notes Dr. Laura Punnett, a co-author from University of Massachusetts Lowell. "The excess risk among Hispanic housekeepers compared to other housekeepers is more difficult to explain, and requires further study."
Celia Alvarez, who spoke at the Summit’s plenary session, knows this pain firsthand. She worked at the non-union Hyatt Regency in Long Beach, California for 19 years as a housekeeper before becoming permanently injured in her lower back and shoulder. "Cleaning between 25 to 30 rooms a day demands working fast and this is how I hurt my body," says Alvarez. "There isn’t time to take care of our bodies. I have pain every day."
The study also indicates that injury rates vary by employer. Housekeepers at the Hyatt hotels in the study had the highest rate of injury, double that of the hotel company with the lowest rate. Given this variation, University of California San Francisco researcher and study co-author Dr. Niklas Krause says, "The observed substantial differences between hotel companies and different worker groups point to a high potential for prevention of these injuries."
"I applaud Secretary Solis for spotlighting the unequal impact of work-related injuries on Latino and immigrant workers," says John Wilhelm, President of Unite Here, the hotel workers union. "Hotels are one place we know that Latina workers face higher injury rates, and all of us have an obligation to change these disgraceful findings."