Friday, May 12, 2006

alternate title: once upon a mattress

Following up on this rant, more news from the world of luxury bedding. UNITE HERE published a report last month on hotel housekeepers, their workload, and the amenities arms race currently being conducted by luxury hotel chains. It gathers data from recent surveys and publications, and also presents information from a multi-city survey conducted by the union itself.

Here’s the link to the report, and an accompanying summary of facts and figures which documents all the findings, and provides extra details on the industry as a whole.

I think this report does an excellent job of clearly and accurately presenting what’s at stake for hotel workers’ health and safety, without exaggeration or (too much) melodrama. The anecdotal testimony from housekeepers makes abundantly clear the need for workload reduction, but even more persuasive is the list of tasks per room that a hotel housekeeper is expected to perform:

Bedroom Tasks

Remove all room-service items from room
Strip bed(s) of all sheets, blankets and duvets
Place bottom sheet on each bed and tuck 4-8 times
Place top sheets and blanket on each bed and tuck 4-8 times
Spread duvet on bed
Remove 4-8 pillowcases per bed and stuff pillows into fresh cases
Dust all nightstands and desk
Carefully restock and arrange pens, papers and other written materials (i.e. room service menus) on desk
Dust armoire or dresser, including behind the TV
Clean TV screen
Retrieve TV remote and rearrange TV channel guides
Pick up trash and empty bedroom’s wastebasket
Wash and dry ice bucket and rearrange on counter
Collect, wash and dry dirty glasses
Dust vents
Put away all ironing boards and other equipment
Vacuum all floors

Bathroom Tasks

Pick up soiled towels and place on cart
Replace soiled towels
Clean and disinfect toilet bowl
Wipe down top and side of toilet
Restock toilet paper
Wipe down counter tops
Clean sink(s) and polish faucets
Replace and arrange toiletries (i.e. shampoo, soaps)
Clean bathroom mirror
Wash and dry coffeepot and cups and rearrange on counter
Scrub inside of bathtub
Clean/replace shower curtain or scrub shower door
Clean bath and shower walls
Pick up trash and empty bathroom wastebasket
Mop floor
Dust vents

A few things to keep in mind. Many rooms have more than one bed, doubling some of the bedroom tasks. Some housekeepers are expected to clean 20 of these rooms a day, giving them about half an hour to complete a room. Inspectors visit their rooms regularly, and any incomplete task from the list above is grounds for discipline. Obviously these conditions improve markedly in union shops, but the workload issues still persist. In particular, all tasks that require maneuvering bedding become much more difficult – and dangerous – when the hotels upgrade amenities.

This issue has gotten a lot of press recently, and for good reason. The industry is posting record profits due to the amenities arms race, and in the process, literally breaking apart the bodies of the women who do the actual work.

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