RELEASE: Senate Approves Bill to End “On Your Knees” Bathroom Cleaning and Backbreaking Bed-Making Practices for Hotel Housekeepers

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

SB 432 (D-DeLeón) heads to Assembly

SACRAMENTO, CA - The California State Senate approved today, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 Senate Bill 432, a pioneering piece of legislation to prevent work-related injuries in hotel housekeepers.

“These ladies don’t play in the NBA but their injuries would keep LeBron James out of the NBA Finals,” said bill author Senator Kevin de León. “These injuries are preventable and so we must change the industry standard.”

SB 432 (De León) will outlaw unsafe housekeeping practices that result in housekeepers cleaning bathroom floors on their knees for lack of mops and lifting heavy mattresses for lack of fitted sheets.

“We are thrilled to hear SB 432 has passed the Senate,” said Cathy Youngblood, a Hyatt Andaz housekeeper. “We scrub floors, clean toilets, and lift heavy mattresses to change sheets. We create the hotel’s luxury and comfort, but until now we have been invisible. Thanks to this bill, that is changing.”

Hotel housekeepers frequently clean bathroom floors on their hands and knees, a degrading practice that is tolerated by too many hotel employers. This practice, combined with the failure to provide fitted sheets like those used in homes, has led to an unacceptable rate of back and other work-related injuries.  A landmark study reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2009) by a team of researchers from four universities and UNITE HERE found that hotel housekeepers, particularly females, had the highest injury rates of any hotel service workers in the study.

Hotel workers’ union, UNITE HERE, released a video this week to demonstrate the need for fitted sheets and mops. Watch at www.youtube.com/uniteherelocal11

“I have had two knee surgeries to repair worn down kneecaps from scrubbing bathroom floors. The years of repetitive motion have also affected my shoulders, waist, back and hips, causing chronic pain,” said Gloria Pena, a 63-year-old retired housekeeper at the Disneyland Hotel. “Housekeepers need simple tools like fitted sheets and mops so they don’t end up like me.”

On May 20, CalOSHA issued a potential hazard alert to the Hyatt Andaz hotel notifying that housekeepers at the hotel had suffered repetitive motion injuries while making beds and cleaning bathroom floors, and recommending that the hotel consider solutions such as fitted sheets and tools.

“Too many hotel housekeepers clean bathroom floors on their hands and knees,” said Tommy Ruedaflores, a board member for the bill’s sponsor, the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA). “This unsafe and degrading practice, combined with failure to provide fitted sheets, like those used in homes, has led to a high rate of back and other work related-injuries. SB 432 will prevent injuries by requiring long-handled cleaning mops and fitted sheets in all hotels.”

The bill has been amended to clarify that the law will be enforced in the normal course of inspections with existing OSHA staff, meaning no additional costs to the state. The bill now heads to the State Assembly.  Senator Kevin de Leόn will also be accepting an amendment that will make clear that if a hotel can introduce a better ergonomic remedy to reduce housekeeper injury, it will be allowed to apply for a variance from the bill’s requirements.