For immediate release
August 30, 2007
(New York, NY) — A new study released on Monday, August 27, 2007 at PREMUS – the Sixth International Scientific Conference on Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, held in Boston, highlights the differences in injury rates by gender, race/ethnicity or both. Dr. Susan Buchanan, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, presented the alarming results that raise many questions as to why certain workers are getting injured at different rates. PREMUS is a prestigious academic conference, gathering researchers from around the world with the goal of preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
This first study ever on the differences in injury rates by race, ethnicity and gender of hotel workers in the United States utilized hotel employer records of work-related injuries and employee hiring list data. This is the largest study of hotel workers’ injuries ever performed in the United States aside from data that the Department of Labor collects annually.
Dr. Buchanan, along with professors from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of California San Francisco and Hunter College School of Health Sciences collaborated with UNITE HERE, the union of hospitality workers, on this study of over 28,000 hotel workers employed in 72 unionized hotels during the 2003-2005 time period. The hotel companies included in the study are Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Marriott and Starwood.
A sample of 35 union hotels in the “full-service” sector was selected for further study of disparities in injury rates by gender and race/ethnicity. This sample includes 16,000 workers employed annually with over 700 injuries occurring each year.
Hotel Workers – New Analysis Provides Descriptive Data on Key Job Titles
The job titles included in this new injury study – room attendants, stewards/dishwashers, banquet servers and cooks/kitchen workers — represent 49% of the hotel workforce; therefore, these study findings require serious attention given the large number of workers affected in the hotel industry.
Female Workers – Highest Rates of Injuries
• Disparities by gender: injury rates of 5.5% for females compared to 3.7% for males.
• In job titles where both males and females are employed, female workers’ injury rates are consistently higher than males:
Stewards/Dishwashers: 10.1% vs. 5.1% in males
Cooks: 6.1% vs. 5.1% in males
Banquet Servers: 2.6% vs. 1.8% in males
Workers of Color – Higher Rates Consistently by Subgroups
• Disparities by race/ethnicity: injury rates of 4.9% for nonwhites compared to 3.0% for whites, with even higher rates by demographic subgroups.
• Injury rates are higher for nonwhites in 3 out of 4 job titles — housekeepers, cooks and banquet servers.
Women Workers of Color – Combined Risks Equal Highest Risks of All
• The combination of increased risk by gender with the increased risk by race/ethnicity suggests an even greater increased risk for women of color:
Female Hispanic Stewards/Dishwashers: 10.0%
Female Hispanic Room Attendants: 9.5%
Female Asian Cooks: 8.9%
Female Hispanic Banquet Servers: 3.9%
Female Black Hotel Workers: 3.8%
Importance of the Findings
Along with scientific studies that show dangers to housekeepers from luxury rooms, bedding and amenities, this study looks at a variety of jobs in hotels and asks a more global question of employers – why are injury rates of women hotel workers, workers of color and immigrant workers higher than the rates for all workers? And more importantly, what are hotel employers going to do about it?
According to Dr. Lida Orta-Anes, ergonomics expert and professor at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico, “This study is a first step towards identifying who, today is doing hotel work in the United States and who is getting injured on the job. The higher injury rates for women across all jobs and for Hispanics in specific jobs is alarming. More research is needed to get at the root of these injuries and difference in rates of injury.”
These statistics are just one part of the story about hotel workers and the risk of being injured on the job:
“After 10 years of working as a housekeeper at the Cambridge Hyatt, the parts of my body that I used the most at work are the parts that hurt the most,” says Lachmin Karaya, member of Local 26 UNITE HERE in Boston. Karaya, an American citizen who is an immigrant from Guyana, added, “When I worked there I always told the Director of Housekeeping that we did too many rooms and that we felt pain, but he never did anything. All I remember him doing is telling us to rush and finish by 4:30.”
Cherie Gibson, an African-American housekeeper at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. says, “We work with our bodies – our backs, on our knees. Hotel work is hard work, the way they have us bending, stretching and lifting. When we get hurt on the job, we need light duty so we can go back to work. If not, you’re losing money and the bills get backed up.”
Fellow UNITE HERE Local 25 member, Maria Guzman, also from the Marriott Wardman Park where she worked as a steward from 2001-2006, tells of the hard work of washing dishes., “I had to wash a lot of plates and silverware, then bring that heavy stuff to other kitchens. I had to push a cart that was very heavy, everyday. One day I was pushing the cart and it wasn’t working, and it fell down on my leg and hand. I was given light duty but the department manager pushed me too hard to finish even though I was still recovering from my injury.”
According to John Wilhelm, UNTE HERE President/Hospitality Industries, “We have long known that hotel work is dangerous, and that room attendants suffer from high injury rates as a result of unreasonable demands, but this new research opens up a whole new way of understanding how our members in a variety of jobs are vulnerable to injury at work. I hope these findings are a wake up call to the hotel industry. Why is it so dangerous to be a woman, a worker of color or both at a hotel? And most importantly, what will hotel employers do about it?”
Researchers also asked hotel employers to evaluate hazards of hotel jobs, implement existing remedies and face the challenges they have created in the hotel industry affecting workers’ health and safety, and in particular the disparities in injury rates.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with a hotel worker or a member of the research team, please contact Amanda Cooper (212-332-9376 or [email protected]) or Pamela Vossenas (646-305-7304 or [email protected]).