Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Do you read Firedoglake?

You really should.

Jordan Barab of confinedspace has a great guest post on the Hotel Workers Rising summer campaign. One thing I hadn't seen before was a full accounting of how many workers are in the industry vs. how many are unionized. The union represents about 17% of the national hospitality industry, so they really have some work cut out to dominate it in the way they're seeking to. UNITE HERE is running a great national campaign, where they have essentially all of their major union contracts coming up at once all across the nation. That means that they can threaten a national strike over issues like health care and union organizing--and of course, wages.

This is why management has fought back so hard in so many cities to prevent these contracts from coming up all at once.

And check out the following comments that Barab received:
I’m a career motel maid, currently out of work with a largely-unrelated disability. Every word is true, and it’s worse than that.

You can spend easily an hour every day folding your own linens because the hotels are so understocked that you have to grab it right out of the dryer to make up rooms you’ve already done and didn’t have any washcloths to put in.

And then there are the days where they drag you to mandatory staff meetings that have nothing to do with housekeeping, and are generally not in a language housekeeping speaks, and then you still have to get the same amount of work done in less time.

Injuries and illness are common, breathing the chemicals can actually kill you, and your supervisor will do anything to keep you from filing an accident report or getting workman’s comp, including threatening employees with legal work permits with deportation. It works, too.

A surprising number of hotel maids are in their fifties and sixties and beyond, and will work till they drop. Second (and third) jobs are not uncommon, either. It’s a minimum wage driven industry.

In the summer you can expect to work two or three weeks in a row with no time off. Off-the-clock work is common. It’s almost always classed as part time regardless of how many hours you work, so no benefits, and forget overtime. In fact, an increasing number of hotels play a cute little game where they pay you by the room–that is, you get your assigned list, and you have fifteen-to-forty minutes to do each room. You clock out when that time is up, and if you’re still not done with your rooms, you keep working off the clock. The quoted hourly wage is often inflated by weird assumptions about how many rooms you can do in an hour. Lunch breaks are virtually unheard of, and even the stated lunch break is generally no more than twenty minutes because of the “part time” schedule and the fact that your employers know you don’t know your rights.

I was once fired, a long time ago, for trying to unionize, which isn’t easy in the first place when you don’t all speak the same language and the rest of the staff is cowed with threats of deportation, but mostly I didn’t try because I was aware that my co-workers couldn’t take the risk of losing their jobs. There wasn’t a lot of support for maids trying to unionize back then, either.

This is nice to see, and I wish them success.
Me too.

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