By Zoe Nicholson, Pacific Shore NOW president | In the summer of 2015, I met some Long Beach hotel workers and first heard about Claudia Sanchez. She is a young dishwasher who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and fell into a coma after working a 14-hour shift at the Long Beach Renaissance Hotel. As the weeks went by, I learned more and more about the terrible burden hotel workers and hotel housekeepers carry.
As the president of the local NOW chapter (National Organization for Women) it is no surprise to me that 85 percent of the housekeepers are women, and 82 percent of hotel employees have been subject to verbal aggression and incidents of “deviant customer actions” while on the job. However, I began asking traveling business people if they knew the risks that housekeepers live with every day. Not one had any idea. They never considered that workers have unreasonable workloads, cleaning as many as 15 rooms a day with no additional compensation. Moreover, it is the personal physical risk these women confront by simply knocking on a door in service, answering a call for linens.
I learned so much while attending a local presentation of “The Clothesline Project.” Hanging around a local coffeehouse were actual pillow cases that displayed meaningful messages about the danger housekeepers and hotel working women live every single day. At the event, daughters of workers spoke about their mothers coming home late, no relief from assaults at work, no concern by their employer, no way to get help or compassion about the area they clean day after day.
I am proud to have stood in the lobby of the Renaissance with others as we delivered a letter to one of the hotel officials. I am proud to have picketed early in the morning on Ocean Avenue with hotel workers. My proudest time was joining them in saying the Stations of the Cross last Lent. Women carried a 100-pound cross along the avenue, demonstrating the burden they carry to feed and shelter their families.
We offer a simple, clear call for safety and fairness. It is rightfully named Claudia’s Law, in honor of Claudia Sanchez. We cannot wait another moment to give workers respect, fair working conditions and an environment safe from sexual assault. I ask that our city leaders pass Claudia’s Law as soon as possible to protect our local hotel workers.
Zoe Nicholson is Long Beach resident, president of the local National Organization for Women chapter and a member of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice.