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California Lawmakers to Address Hotel Sheets: Flat or fitted?

Union-backed bill intended to cut down on worker injuries

By Lori Weisberg, The San Diego Union-Tribune
May 9, 2011

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Chances are, the last time you flopped down on one of those lush hotel beds, replete with a pillow-top mattress, high thread-count sheets, down comforter and mounds of fluffy pillows, you weren’t wondering, flat — or fitted.

Yet, that’s at the core of a debate that will consume state legislators beginning next Monday when a committee will ponder a labor union-backed bill mandating the use of fitted bottom sheets in all hotel rooms.

The way union leaders see it, such sheets – common in households across America but far less so in hotels – will help ease the backbreaking work that defines a housekeeper’s job. Hoteliers, who say the mandate could cost the industry $20 million statewide, call it a ridiculous, unnecessary piece of legislation that is sidetracking politicians from far more pressing work like balancing the state budget.

Besides tackling the issue of fitted sheets, the bill also calls for the use of long-handled mops so that housekeepers do not have to get down on their hands and knees to clean bathroom floors.

Hotel workers and injuries

  • Injury rates for hotel workers surpass those of most other service workers.
  • In 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a rate of 5.8 injuries per 100 hotel workers, compared to 4.2 for all service sector employees.
  • Housekeepers have the highest injury rate of all — 7.9 injuries per 100 workers.
  • With an injury rate of 10.6, Hispanic housekeepers have the highest injury rate of all racial and ethnic groups.
Source: 2009 study published in American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2009), which analyzed injury records from 2003-2005 at 50 hotels

What hotel operators say

  • Many chains and independents already provide ergonomic training and tools for workers.
  • Majority of lodging establishments have instituted green practicies that allow guests to opt out of changing and cleaning linens, thereby reducing the workload.
  • Very few hotels use fitted sheets because of the difficulty folding, ironing and storing them.
  • A changeover for the state’s 550,500 hotel rooms would cost $20 million.
  • Some experienced housekeeping staff have said using fitted sheets can be more strenuous to use.
Source: California Hotel & Lodging Association

For the rest of the story please visit:


Lori Weisberg, Staff Writer
San Diego Union-Tribune
350 Camino de la Reina
San Diego, CA  92102

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