Published: 21/06/2011

Thanks to the courage of the housekeeper at the Sofitel New York, a curtain has been pulled back on the world of sexual misconduct that housekeepers sometimes face from guests. Inspired by her stand, more 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.

While sexual assault is uncommon, housekeepers’ stories reveal a pervasive pattern of harassment and unsafe working conditions for the women-predominantly immigrants-who work in the industry. Too often, hotels have been complicit in the culture of silence around this issue, telling housekeepers that the guest is always right. Now women are standing together to say through their unions: we have the right to a safe and secure workplace.

On the day of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arraignment, uniformed New York housekeepers showed up in droves to show their solidarity with their sister union member at the Sofitel Hotel. On June 2, hotel housekeepers in Toronto, Chicago, San Antonio, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Los Angeles held coordinated speak-outs to end the silence on the range of abuses they experience on the job. The housekeepers courageously shared their stories of sexual harassment, workplace injuries, and debilitating workloads, and called on the hotel industry to listen to their concerns and end the abuses.

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.
IUF affiliate UNITE HERE is 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 supports the legislation recently introduced in the New York State legislature to provide panic buttons to employees to use in case of emergency.

More information and updates are available on the website of Hotel Workers Rising!