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Housekeeping workers who belong to the hospitality labour union Unite Here in the USA and Canada linked up with other industry workers in a day of protest in 30 cities, including marching outside hotels and casinos.
A particular focus for housekeeping staff in the union’s ‘Come Back Stronger’ campaign is the trend towards removing automatic daily cleaning of rooms unless guests request it. For instance, Hilton ended this service at its non-luxury hotel brands during the pandemic and made the policy permanent in the summer. The unionised housekeepers have told how many of their members remain unemployed, underemployed, or working much harder for the same pay.
Those still in work say without daily housekeeping their check-out cleaning tasks are becoming harder, with vacated rooms being left in worse condition than previously. Unite Here believes 39 per cent of previous US housekeeping roles will disappear even though room occupancy levels are returning towards normal, while between them housekeeping staff will lose $4.8 billion in annual wages.
At the peak of the shut-down, 98 per cent of the union’s members in hospitality were out of work, and they say many jobs haven’t come back even as business rebounds and employers complain of a labour shortage. The majority of the union’s members are women and people from ethnic minorities.
“The hotel industry wants to go back to full occupancy without ever bringing back the full workforce, but we are fighting to stop them,” said Yolanda Chen, a housekeeper for five years at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco. “Over the past few months, Hilton has only called me back to work three times, and I cannot find a job with the same wages and health care that my co-workers and I have won through many years of organising. We want to get our jobs back so our families can recover from the pandemic.”