The California State Assembly Labor and Employment Committee moved Senate Bill 432 “On Our Knees” one step closer to the governor’s desk. The proposed legislation is hoping to outlaw hotel maid’s requirement that makes them perform unsafe housekeeping duties like cleaning bathroom floors and making a bed without fitted sheets.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The hotel industry mounted an aggressive push back, but it failed to derail the bill as the California State Senate approved the injury-prevention bill on June 1.
According to a press release, the hospitality industry lobby has slammed the bill as another example of California's “over legislating” and just another reason business is fleeing the bankrupt state.
Hyatt Hotels Corp. was the first large hotel chain to announce its opposition to the legislation. However, the bill’s author was not buying into any of the hotel's regulation claims.
“The hotels change their sheet inventory frequently. There will be no added expense,” said Democratic 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.”
Senator de Leόn went on to describe maid duties as “degrading work” in his press release. “Hotel housekeepers frequently clean bathroom floors on their hands and knees, a degrading practice that is tolerated by too many hotel employers.”
It is de Leόn’s assertion that maid’s back-breaking work requires hotel housekeepers to regularly clean floors on their knees. “The 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 study by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2009) by researchers from four universities and UNITE HERE, a housekeeper union, said hotel maids suffered the highest injury rates of any hotel employees.
“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?”
Complaints from maids received mixed reviews from hotel patrons. “When I check into a hotel I don’t expect to be handed a toilet brush and clean sheets as a part of my hotel experience,” said Nancy Hoover.
However, the housekeepers union seems to think hotel owners need to provide alternative cleaning duties for maids who perform so-called demeaning cleaning tasks.
“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.”
Some hotels, like the downtown LA Marriott, have compromised and provide fitted sheets for all of their beds. “In the Marriott Downtown LA, we use fitted sheets, and the housekeepers love them,” Teresita Cain said. “Fitted sheets are easier on our bodies.”
While that may be true, if the proposed hotel regulation passes, motel guests in the Golden State may have to ask; “Am I responsible for cleaning my room and how much will I be paid for the service?”
Senate Bill 432 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee in Sacramento.
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