Hotel workers say ‘green’ program costs jobs

By: Alejandra Cancino Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Posted: 3:02 AM, Dec 11, 2014

If I were a worker in the hotel/motel/Inn & Suites industry, I do not believe that I would make a statement like the above and if I ever did I would not also show my face on the article?

Because of a lifetime as a traveling Spiritual Teacher and/or Head Veteran, I have traveled around Indian country for many years with my tribe or others.

We have spent time in almost all company hotels, motels and Inns from the most expensive to the dumps.

We like to make ourselves comfortable at each stay and sometimes this means moving furniture around, so hearing complaints such as this is beyond funny!

It takes a lot more then water and electricity to clean a room!

I also takes, pride and elbow grease!

On the other side of the coin!

The last few weeks of each week in a hotel/motel, we have notices management pushing too hard to finish a room and get on to the next, so maybe both sides should put their heads together and include their customers in this dispute?



A program that encourages hotel guests to decline housekeeping to conserve water and electricity sounds like a noble idea.

But hotel housekeepers say the program is killing their jobs, their legs and their backs as those workers still employed say they have to work harder because the rooms tend to be dirtier.

Fabiola Rivera, 31, said her managers expect her to clean rooms left unkempt for as many as three days at a pace of 16 rooms per day in an eight-hour shift, the same quota as if the rooms were tidied daily. And she also has to run around delivering fresh towels to guests in the program who cheat a bit.

“We are totally exhausted,” Lucila Chavez, 40, told a manager Friday at the Westin on North Dearborn Street, where she participated in a small protest of the program. The conservation effort is being promoted by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, parent to W Hotels, Sheraton and Westin.

Chavez said housekeepers have been reprimanded for not cleaning rooms fast enough and some have resorted to working through breaks to avoid warnings. Still, she said, there are days when she looks at the clock at 2 p.m. and realizes she won’t finish on time. In comparison, before the program started, she could clean up to 20 rooms in a day because some rooms just needed a light touch.

Chavez, who said she’s worked for 12 years at the W Chicago Lakeshore, said she lies awake at night with leg pain.

“I love my job, but this is too much,” she said. “What do (managers) want? Quality or quantity? You can’t do both.”

The hotel chain, in an email, said it stands by its program. “The company will continue to integrate innovative environmental practices into its core business strategy,” it said.

The program, which allows guests to decline housekeeping for up to three days, is part of Starwood’s efforts to reduce energy by 30 percent and water consumption by 20 percent by 2020. As an incentive, guests receive a $5 food and beverage voucher or 250 to 500 reward points each night they decline housekeeping.

More than 5 million guests have participated, “saving more than 223 million gallons of water and 961,000 kilowatts of electricity from 2009 to 2013,” the company said.

Eric Ricaurte, founder and chief executive of Greenview, a sustainability consulting firm, said hotel environmental programs have been around more than 15 years. Most hotels now offer guests the option of reusing linens and towels, one of the first efforts to conserve energy and water. But even when guests hang up their towels, the sign they don’t want them replaced, housekeepers usually change them, Ricaurte said.

Such programs have misfired with guests, who realized they were helping the hotel cut costs but not getting anything in return, Ricaurte said. In contrast, Starwood’s program offers vouchers and points, he said.

Housekeeper Maria Vergara, 37, said the program has become so popular that there are days when an entire floor’s doorknobs display cards indicating guests don’t want their rooms cleaned.

With not enough desks to dust, sheets to change and bathrooms to scrub, Vergara said she and at least five other housekeepers were laid off Dec. 1. Managers said the layoffs were seasonal, according to the housekeepers.

Noah Dobin-Bernstein, an organizer with Unite Here Local 1, which represents 3,000 housekeepers in Chicago, said hotels nationally have begun to copy Starwood’s program, putting at risk thousands of jobs nationwide. “It’s a big problem,” Dobin-Bernstein said.

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