The family and friends of a 20-year-old downtown Long Beach hotel dishwasher who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and fell into a coma after working a 14-hour shift in April gathered outside the business Wednesday afternoon for a prayer vigil and to ask that the company pay for her medical expenses.
Members of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and the Stand With Women Against Abuse coalition joined the co-workers and family of Claudia Sanchez, who collapsed in the parking lot of the Renaissance Long Beach hotel on April 29 after working six hours of over-time on top of a regular eight-hour work shift, organizers said.
“We are here today standing vigil for Claudia Sanchez,” said the Reverend Will Connor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, and a CLUE member. “We’re also here for economic and social justice for all working people.”
“We are asking today that the Renaissance hotel, and its owner Sunstone Investors, really open their hearts to the suffering of the people who work inside of their hotel walls each and every day,” said Nina Fernando, another CLUE member.
A CAT scan revealed Claudia suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and subsequently fell into a coma she awoke from only a few weeks ago.
According to her father, Fernando Sanchez, she is immobile on the right side of her body, can barely speak and expresses a lot of pain.
“She, on the days she worked at the Renaissance, would come home very tired,” Fernando told the crowd of a few dozen. “She said her managers would continue pressuring her for more and more.”
The family routine has shifted dramatically in the last five months, Fernando said.
“One of us is always with her in the hospital. We take turns spending the night in her hospital room to make sure she is well. We all take turns during the day and pray the rosary every night like a family,” according to Fernando. “The hospital has turned into our new home. We are tired and sad but we are happy that our daughter is awake.”
Up until Claudia’s accident, it was common for employees to work over-time on a regular basis, Jose Diaz, a co-worker in the housekeeping department, said.
“I know the way they treat us here in this hotel,” Diaz said. “They put a lot of pressure on us.”
Supporters of Claudia Sanchez walk into the lobby of the Renaissance Long Beach hotel singing This Little Light of Mine.
Diaz is currently organizing with co-workers to help end what they see as harsh working conditions and make sure Claudia’s accident does not happen to others.
“I am very sad and worried about her. She always worked very hard, but it always seemed they pressured her very much to work hard and fast,” Diaz said.
During her time with the company—about a year—Claudia was sometimes the only dishwasher during breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts, organizers said.
Despite the hotel denying liability for Claudia’s injury, her family and supporters say they will continue to seek justice and hope the hotel will reverse its decision.
A copy attained by the Post of a letter denying workers’ compensation benefits to Claudia stated the following:
“Workers’ compensation benefits are being denied based upon our investigation that reveals there were no significant stressors on the job and their being absolutely no medical evidence that suggests that the workplace caused or aggravated the medical conditions that arose on April 29 2015.”
Hotel General Manager Pam Ryan could not comment on whether the hotel will pay for Claudia’s medical expenses. She did confirm, however, that Claudia is still employed at the hotel.
Ryan also released the following statement in an email to the Post:
“Our prayers remain with Ms. Claudia Sanchez and her family as she continues to recover. Claudia is thought of fondly at the hotel with many colleagues considering her a friend; not just a co-worker.”
Above, left photo of Claudia Sanchez provided by event organizers. Bottom, right screen shot of partial benefits denial letter by Marriott Claims Services. All other photos by Stephanie Rivera.