Hotel Housekeepers Take Action to End “On Your Knees” Cleaning and Back-Breaking Bed-Making Practices

It’s not every day that someone testifying before the Senate Labor Committee gets down on her hands and knees — at least not literally. But on Wednesday, more than 30 hotel housekeepers from up and down the state converged on the Capitol to do just that.

Eleazar Dumuk, a hotel housekeeper from the Hyatt Regency Hotel Santa Clara, explained, and demonstrated, why. 

In hotel bathrooms, I have to get down on my hands and knees to clean the floor and bathtub well. I wear knee pads under my uniform pants so that I can protect my knees better, but still, the pain in my knees is getting worse and worse. They are swollen, and last week I was in constant pain.

Dumuk and her fellow hotel housekeepers converged in Sacramento on Wednesday, April 13, advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 432 (DeLeon), a ground-breaking piece of legislation that will require hotels to provide housekeepers with long-handled tools like mops, so women don’t have to get on their hands and knees to scrub floors, as well as fitted sheets, so they don’t have to lift 100-plus-pound mattress when changing sheets.

The legislation is the first of its kind in California.

Most housekeepers clean 15-25 hotel rooms in a shift. It’s back-breaking work, and on-the-job injuries are common.  One survey of 600 hotel housekeepers found that 91 percent of housekeepers have suffered work-related pain. And 66 percent took pain medication just to get through their daily quota.

Nenita Ibe, another Hyatt housekeeper, testified that she injured herself making a bed in 2009, then while still injured and on “light duty” two years later, she hurt her other arm. Now both arms are damaged and she cannot lift her arms to her head, even to wash her hair. Check out some photos of Ibe in the Sacramento Bee.

Said Ibe:

I cannot lift a coffee cup without spilling it on myself. My life has changed drastically because of this injury. Every night I wake up from pain.

The stories are tough to hear, but housekeepers remain hopeful. With overwhelming support from Democratic members of the Labor Committee, the bill passed and was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further discussion.

The hotel housekeepers send special thanks to Sen. Kevin DeLeon for championing the bill and advocating so strongly for its passage.

DeLeon told fellow lawmakers:

My mother was a housekeeper the vast majority of her life. These workers deserve much better.

Get more information on hotel workers’ injuries.