News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Michele Himmelberg, The Orange County Register, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 20, 2004 - Hotel housekeepers know a good vacation when they see one.
Trash strewn all over the room, wet towels on the beds, cans of soda spilled on the floor, children's handprints streaking the glass closet doors and sticky food residue on the furniture.
Miriam Gonzalez can handle that. The housekeeper at the Paradise Pier Hotel scrubs, dusts and vacuums that kind of mess every day.
It's the serious dirt that gobbles her time as she scurries to clean 14 rooms per shift: gooey suckers plastered to a nightstand; cereal and milk soaked into a wadded-up bedspread; popcorn dumped in every corner; dirty clothes stuffed under the dressers; cosmetics coloring the bathroom counter; toothpaste smeared into the carpet.
Gonzalez, one of hundreds of housekeepers at the Disneyland Resort hotels, voted Thursday to approve a union contract that will give her a 5 percent pay raise this year, options for less-expensive health care, and help to get her work done on busy days.
The new contract increases wages and offers affordable health care for roughly 2,200 employees, mostly housekeepers, bartenders, dishwashers, cooks and bellmen. It brings the Grand Californian Hotel into an agreement that also covers the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier.
It's a deal that Gonzalez helped forge by getting more involved at Local 681, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union. She marched in a worker vigil in December, educated herself and colleagues about the issues and represented the housekeepers during 10 days of bargaining sessions.
"I like to know my rights," Gonzalez said, "and I want to fight for my opportunity to work, and for the co-workers to get a good health plan.
"I feel for the first time mas confianza (more confident). I feel better about myself, that I can do something to help my family and help other people."
Gonzalez is one of hundreds of HERE members who participated in events leading up to negotiations and often attended bargaining sessions before or after their work shifts. They are part of a major organizing effort the union is implementing nationwide.
"We're changing to get a more grass-roots organization," said HERE union President Ada Torres, who has been sharply criticized by some members.
"Now, workers are the ones going to management. It's not just the leadership sitting at a table flexing their muscles. It's the workers taking on the boss. We're using the strength of the worker to show companies what we need," she said.
Disney spokeswoman Sondra Haley said: "We are pleased with the process and progress made in our recent negotiations with HERE. We believe the new contract benefits everyone." Gonzalez, a Garden Grove mother who now earns $9.16 an hour, celebrated the new contract because it will help her pay the $900 a month rent on her 1-bedroom apartment, buy some new clothes for her children and choose a health plan that works for her family.
She plans to spend $11 a week for a plan that covers her children, ages 7 and 11, with $20 co-payments for doctor visits and a $90 co-payment for emergency-room visits. She and her husband, a warehouse worker, are relieved to get a plan that will help them manage medical expenses.
Health care was the major issue for many workers. Disney agreed to increase its contributions for medical coverage, allowing workers at all three hotels the option to join the union plan and pay no weekly premium, Torres said.
That will eliminate $1,700 a year in premium payments for some workers, and reduce co-payments for doctor visits.
Union members who are willing to pay premiums can choose an alternative plan.
The contract also gives workers a raise of 40 cents an hour this year, with raises of 45 cents an hour in 2005, 2006 and 2007, Torres said.
Housekeepers will earn an additional 10 cents an hour this year and 10 cents an hour next year to compensate for their workload. On heavy days, when housekeepers have more than 10 checkouts, their quota will be reduced from 14 to 13 rooms.
The union made one significant concession, allowing for a tiered salary scale. Disney will be able to hire new hotel employees at 80 percent of the salary of current employees.
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(c) 2004, The Orange County Register, Calif. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.