SACRAMENTO– The California State Assembly Labor and Employment Committee today advanced Senate Bill 432 (De Leόn), a bill seeking to 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.
“The hotels change their sheet inventory frequently. There will be no added expense,” said the bill’s author Senator Kevin de Leόn (D-22). “All we ask is that when the hotels make their next purchase, half of the sheets be fitted. It is a minor action for them but a major benefit to employee health, safety, happiness and productivity.”
Despite an aggressive hotel industry push against it, the California State Senate approved the injury-prevention bill on June 1. The hospitality industry lobby has decried the bill as California “over legislating.” And last week, Hyatt Hotels Corp. publically announced its opposition to the bill, becoming the first major hotel chain to do so.
“I live and work in constant pain,” said Gilda Vallejo, a 13-year housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. “My back and shoulders throb from the repetitive lifting. Simple solutions like fitted sheets could help relieve some of the pressure and make our jobs safer.”
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.
“We scrub floors, clean toilets, and lift heavy mattresses to change sheets,” said Cathy Youngblood, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood. “The beds are too heavy, and with flat sheets you have to lift the mattress to tuck the sheet under. By the time I’m on my sixth or seventh room, my hands are aching. Everybody uses fitted sheets at home. Why are the hotels the exception”
Teresita Cain, a housekeeper from the Marriott Downtown LA, told the committee her hotel switched from flat to fitted sheets after workers complained to management about the difficulty of flat sheets.
“In the Marriott Downtown LA, we use fitted sheets, and the housekeepers love them,” Cain said. “Fitted sheets are easier on our bodies. As housekeepers, we like taking care of the guests and providing excellent service, but we just don’t want to do it in pain.”
Hotel workers’ union, UNITE HERE, has released a video to demonstrate the need for fitted sheets and mops. Watch at www.youtube.com/uniteherelocal11
The bill now goes to Assembly Appropriations Committee.