Housekeepers nationwide speak out, launching campaign to end silence on hotel dangers

In light of the Strauss-Kahn and other assault controversies, housekeepers in Chicago and seven across North America hold public events, speaking out against abuses at work

Today hotel housekeepers in Chicago and seven cities across North America will hold coordinated speak-outs to break the silence on the dangers of their jobs, and to call on the thousands of housekeepers across the country to do the same. Inspired by the courageous stand taken by the housekeepers in New York against some of the most powerful men in the world, housekeepers are coming forward to share their own stories and launch a campaign to break the silence about the routine sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse that housekeepers face at work.

Hotel housekeepers–overwhelmingly women, immigrants, and people of color–are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry. While incidents of sexual assault are uncommon, women routinely face indecent exposure and other indignities from male guests. Housekeepers have come forward with stories from across North America that reveals a pervasive pattern of harassment and unsafe working conditions for the women who work in the hotel industry.

Sexual assault is one of a range of hazards that housekeepers experience. The rate of injury among hotel workers is 25 percent higher than among service workers overall. Among hotel workers, housekeepers have the highest rate of injury—50 percent higher than hotel workers overall.

“It’s dangerous work,” says Yazmin Vazquez, who works at a hotel in downtown Chicago. “These customers think they can use us for anything they want, because we don’t have the power that they have or the money that they have.”

Standing together, housekeepers are also demonstrating that a union is a powerful tool for workers when harassment and other hazards occur. In New York and elsewhere, many safety measures are already in place for union hotel workers, who know they can report incidents to their superiors without the fear of reprisal.

As part of the action, housekeepers are recommending a number of common sense preventative measures to help them feel safer, such as increased security staff, working in teams, and replacing the traditional dress uniform with a pants and tunic uniform. In addition, the union fully supports the legislation recently introduced in the New York State legislature to provide panic buttons to employees to use in case of emergency.

Events will be held in Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston, San Antonio, and Indianapolis.