Dozens of local clergy and community members joined hotel housekeepers in downtown Long Beach Thursday evening to celebrate Housekeeper’s Global Week of Action and call on city officials to pass legislation protecting hotel workers from heavy workloads and sexual harassment.
Workers led supporters in a candlelight march and vigil that began at the Renaissance hotel and moved a block east on Ocean Boulevard to the Westin hotel.
“There have been disabilities, there have been deaths, life-threatening injuries, attached to this work by the women who do it, and also by men who work in the hotels, and they get no recompense for it,” said the Reverend Will Connor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, a Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) member. “We need daily justice, we need a living wage, we need decent working conditions, and human respect, for the people who work in these hotels.”
In addition to demands for better working conditions, workers also called on the Renaissance hotel to pay for the medical expenses of one of its employees who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and fell into a coma after working a 14-hour shift in April.
Claudia Sanchez, a 20-year-old dishwasher at the Renaissance, subsequently fell into a coma that she awoke from in September.
“Now I ask the managers at the Renaissance hotel, would you be willing to do the same thing to your daughter, your brother, your uncle or to your mother?” said Hilton hotel worker Jose Landino as Sanchez’ family stood nearby. “Would you also give your back to them like you did to Claudia?”
According to Connor, lawyers are working pro bono to get Renaissance’s management to reverse a previous denial of workers compensation benefits for Sanchez.
“As a member of the Long Beach City Council, I take very seriously the working conditions of all women in Long Beach,” Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez stated. “I encourage my fellow city leaders to support this cause to protect our working women. Without protections for our workforce, this could lead to serious public health risks that we cannot ignore.”
The evening gathering was one of multiple protests scheduled to take place in 13 cities across North America, spotlighting safety concerns and poor wages faced by many women who clean hotel rooms, according to officials with the Stand With Women Against Abuse coalition.
Since 2002, the number of hotels in Long Beach has increased from 37 to 44, while the workforce has decreased from 2,575 to 2,370, according to research cited by coalition leaders.
All photos by Stephanie Rivera.