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For Many the Job's Too Much - Sound Familiar to You,
Mr. /Ms. Hotel Owner/Manager?

By Joseph M. Gravish (August 2007)

The statistics alone are telling:

  • Locally one-half leave before they hit the five-year mark; 29% statewide; 24% nationwide.
  • In a few struggling places, inexperience (defined as less than five years on-the-job) approaches 70%.
  • New hires find the job more difficult than they expect.
Does this sound familiar to you, Mr. /Ms. hotel owner/manager? Maybe it applies to your housekeeping staff - the same group of people you compensate the least? Or provide little – if any - medical benefits? Offer no paid time off? No educational/self-improvement assistance, etc? 

A study sponsored by the UNITE HERE union indicates hotel housekeepers suffer a 10.4% injury rate; more than 85% higher than non-housekeepers. In a different study by the same organization 91% of housekeepers report experiencing pain while at work, with 66% of those taking pain medication. Are hotel managers susceptible to accusations of deliberately wearing out their staff by turning a blind eye to the importance experience brings to the service industry (allowing housekeepers to be, as one occupational medicine physician put it, the “invisible workers” because they toil unobserved in relative obscurity)? Are hotel managers, by their inaction, actually promoting high turnover? And, by not providing basic quality-of-life necessities, backing into higher profits? Can hotel managers continue to put heavier mattresses, more pillows and linens, and additional amenities in guest rooms to please clients and remain competitive but still cling to the myth that housekeepers can adequately clean a guest room in no more than 30 minutes?  Can hotel managers claim these people are their most important asset but deny them adequate medical benefits to cope with their company-imposed, more stressful work environment?

A job fair for a new casino in central Pennsylvania, an area with a limited employment pool and low unemployment, attracted hundreds of applicants. Nearby, a national food market which has been recognized several times in Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” quickly filled 600 full-time positions. Why did so many people apply for these jobs? What type jobs did these people already have? A local service-industry manager knows, “They (casinos) pull a lot of better people out of the (local service) market because they pay them more.” 

As for benefits, he continued “We don’t do it (that is, offer benefits) as we probably should. In the future we’re looking to do a lot more of that. We’re going to end up having to become more competitive in the benefits side of what we do.” 

A few more questions come to mind.

Taking a wider perspective, can the hotel industry allow itself to mimic the situation the airlines find themselves in where staffing has been severely cut yet those remaining are asked to work harder? Can hotels meet ever-increasing customer service expectations with fewer or poorer quality, resources compared to other service sector businesses? 

Given the above, how long can the hotel industry continue to deflect the movement for increased union representation, especially in light of proposed federal legislation making it easier to unionize a property?   

Recalling 2006 – the summer of discontent – can the image of the hotel industry withstand yet another strike threat such as that now pending by 21,000 culinary workers and bartenders in Las Vegas?

Despite phenomenal multi-year growth and profits, is it reasonable that national hotel advocacy organizations continue to insist that liberalizing immigration rules (thereby allowing hotel owners/managers to continue paying poverty-level wages and offer little, or no, benefits) is the cornerstone for future survival? 

In sum, why can’t the industry simply decide to heal itself?

Or, are we ignoring the tsunami-like alternative facing us – locally-mandated wage floors and state-mandated healthcare (Massachusetts, for example, where certain employers are required to pay an annual per-employee penalty to the state in support of universal health insurance)? 

(And oh, the title and statistics cited at the beginning of this article refer to school teachers in the Midwest (“For Many Teachers the Job’s Too Much”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 12, 2007)).

Mr. Gravish is a human resources professional with over 25 years leadership experience at numerous organizational levels both national and international. He is an advocate of building business success through, and by, people – first.

Joseph M. Gravish

Also See: Judge Orders Full Reinstatement for 18 Former Rochester, Minnesota Holiday Inn Express Employees; New Hotel Owner Claimed He Bought Just the Hotel, Not the Hotel Employees / August 2007


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