Imagine lifting the corners of a 100-pound bed six to eight times to get its sheets stretched tightly across it. (The sheets, by the way, aren't fitted to the mattress, meaning you'll have to pull them taut by hand.) Now imagine doing this for up to 40 beds per day. Oh, and you'll also be vacuuming, dusting, emptying trash bins, cleaning toilets, and scrubbing bathroom floors. You'll do all this at a rapid pace because you've got dozens of rooms to clean.
This is the daily grind hotel housekeepers working for Hyatt struggle with. And the pace is leaving workers' bodies debilitated and disabled. That was the message from Hyatt housekeepers on a conference call this afternoon announcing new injury complaints Hyatt housekeepers are filing with the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) about working conditions at the massive hotel chain. "It's not about the workers. It's about the dollars," said Francine Jones, a veteran housekeeper of 19 years who works for the Hyatt Regency Chicago. "If it was about the workers we would be in better health."
Representatives from UNITE-HERE, which represents Hyatt housekeepers, said 12 hotels in eight cities, including Chicago, are targeted in the OSHA complaint, which asks the federal agency for remedies like requiring fitted sheets, long-handled mops, and a reasonable room quota, according to Pamela Vossenas, a union workplace safety and health coordinator. Housekeepers clean 16 to 30 rooms a day; at two properties housekeepers were required to scrub floors on their hands and knees. Between 2007 and 2009, 780 injuries were recorded on OSHA logs at the properties, Vossenas said.
Help from OSHA can't come soon enough for workers like Nenita Ibe, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Speaking through a translator, Ibe said she was making a bed last year when a severe pain suddenly shot through her shoulder and arm. She was put on "light duty" at the hotel, which didn't allow her arm to recover. It proved to be a life-changing injury. "When I take a bath I have to only use my left arm," she said. "I change how I put on my bra and shirt and move very closely so I don't feel pain." Hyatt workers in Chicago, meanwhile, are still locked in a bitter contract battle with the firm. This past May, union members staged a wildcat strike at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to protest an increase in
workload for the housekeeping staff.