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Hotel Housekeepers Participating in the National Action Summit for Latino
Worker Health and Safety to Bring Visibility to the High Rates of Injury
for Hotel Housekeepers—in Particular Latina Housekeepers

HOUSTON, April 14, 2010 - Nearly 50 hotel housekeepers from across the country are traveling to Houston this week to participate in OSHA's National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety, a national conference sponsored by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  Housekeepers are participating in the Summit to bring visibility to the high rates of injury for hotel housekeepers—in particular Latina housekeepers and housekeepers working at Hyatt Hotels.   The focus of the national conference, featuring keynote speaker Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, will address workplace safety issues faced by Latino workers.
National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety
U.S. Department of Labor / Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Who Will Attend: Workers and representatives from employer associations, labor unions, the faith community, community organizations, worker centers, the medical community, safety and health professionals, educators, government officials, Consulates, the entertainment community, the advertising industry, and other non-traditional partners.

The Goal: Reducing injuries and illnesses among Latino workers by enhancing knowledge of their workplace rights and improving their ability to exercise those rights.

The Scope: The Summit will target the construction industry and other high risk industries that employ large numbers of Latino workers.

The Action Agenda: The Summit will develop a working agenda to prevent injury and death among Latino workers. It will showcase innovative partnerships, demonstrate successful education and training strategies, and develop effective enforcement and communication strategies.

Just prior to the start of the OSHA Summit, housekeepers and Houston religious leaders, joined hands to bless the Hope Quilt, a 150-foot quilt made by housekeepers from across North America.  The quilt stitches together the stories of housekeepers and the pain they endure everyday just to provide for their families. Each patch symbolizes a story of pain or injury brought upon by the heavy burden of their workloads. 

A landmark study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in February 2010 finds that for U.S. hotel workers, injury rates are higher based on sex, race/ethnicity, job and hotel employer. Among its findings, the study indicates Latina housekeepers had almost double the risk of injury of white housekeepers doing the same job.

Dr. Susan Buchanan of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the article, called the injury rates for Latina workers in hotels "alarming."

The report also shows that among the different job classifications in hotels, housekeepers face the highest rate of injury. "The excess risk among women probably reflects the fact that so many of them work in the very demanding job of room cleaner," notes Dr. Laura Punnett, a co-author from University of Massachusetts Lowell. "The excess risk among Hispanic housekeepers compared to other housekeepers is more difficult to explain, and requires further study."

The study, based on 55,000 worker-years of observation of 2,865 injuries at 50 unionized hotel properties, is the first to analyze the difference in injury rates by both sex and race/ethnicity among hotel workers. Among its findings, the study indicates that women hotel workers were 1.5 times more likely to be injured than men, Hispanic women had almost double the risk of injury of their white female counterparts, and Hispanic and Asian males about 1.5 times more likely to be injured than white males.

Key Findings:

Female Workers – Highest Rates of Injuries: Women hotel workers are 1.5 times more likely to be injured than men, with injury rates of 6.3 for females compared to 4.3 for males.

Housekeeping – Most Dangerous Job: Hotel housekeepers had the highest rate of injuries of 7.9, 50% higher than all hotel workers [5.2].

Workers of Color – Increased Risk of Injury: Hispanic housekeepers had the highest injury rate of 10.6, making them almost twice as likely to be injured as white housekeepers. Hispanic and Asian males were about 1.5 times more likely to be injured than white males. [p. 4]

Company 2 Housekeepers – Highest Risk of Injury: Housekeepers working at Company 2 are injured at a rate of 10.4, with a risk of injury twice that of housekeepers at Company 1, the referent company with the lowest rates [5.5].

This study builds on earlier work examining the occupational hazards of housekeeping work in the United States. Previous research has revealed that behind the luxury and comfort that housekeepers provide for hotel guests is a pattern of persistent pain and injury. The problem has only gotten worse as hotel companies implement room changes, including heavier beds and linens, and in-room amenities, like coffee makers and spa robes.

"These alarming results raise many questions as to why injury rates are so high for women, and Hispanic and Asian workers in the hotel sector," states Dr. Susan Buchanan of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the article.

Celia Alvarez, who spoke at the Summit's plenary session, knows this pain firsthand. She worked at the non-union Hyatt Regency in Long Beach, California for 19 years as a housekeeper before becoming permanently injured in her lower back and shoulder. "Cleaning between 25 to 30 rooms a day demands working fast and this is how I hurt my body," says Alvarez. "There isn't time to take care of our bodies. I have pain every day."

The study also indicates that injury rates vary by employer. Given this variation, University of California San Francisco researcher and study co-author Dr. Niklas Krause says, "The observed substantial differences between hotel companies and different worker groups point to a high potential for prevention of these injuries."

"I applaud Secretary Solis for spotlighting the unequal impact of work-related injuries on Latino and immigrant workers," says John Wilhelm, President of UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union. "Hotels are one place we know that Latina workers face higher injury rates, and all of us have an obligation to change these disgraceful findings."



Also See: Your Hotel Laundry Room / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / September 2006

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