The Lookout Letter to the editor
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City Council, Please Don’t Hurt Housekeepers

August 23, 2019

Dear Editor,

Santa Monica is well-known as a city friendly to workers. That’s why I am surprised to hear the City Council is considering a policy change that would be detrimental to housekeepers like myself.

I have worked as a housekeeper for more than 20 years. For me, it is not just a job--it is my profession. I take enormous pride in the work I do, and I am treated very well by my employer, Shutters on the Beach.

The beneficial work environment starts with my hourly pay rate, which is far above the required minimum, and includes benefits such as generous insurance and transportation assistance for workers (like myself) who take the bus.

One newer benefit we’ve received is a gadget that allows us to signal if we feel unsafe or unwell at the hotel. (These devices are commonly referred to as “panic buttons.”)

I was excited to hear about new legislation to guarantee these panic buttons for other hotel workers in the city. But this excitement quickly turned to confusion when I found out about another provision that would make unwanted changes to my work schedule.

To understand my concern, consider my typical workday at the hotel. I clean eleven rooms, which is a fair and manageable amount. (This is down from 13 rooms a few years ago.)

My work is scheduled through what hotels call the “credit” system; I am assigned a certain number of cleaning tasks each day, and I have the opportunity to earn more money if I complete these tasks before the end of my shift.

I'm not unique in preferring the current work scheduling system. From conversations on the bus with housekeepers from other hotels, I know they also use this credit system and it works well for them.

The City Council is considering a change that would force hotels like mine to adopt a “square footage” cleaning approach.

Under this new approach, I would essentially be penalized for being efficient with my workday, and possibly demoted to a part-time employee who can only clean so many square-feet per day and then work no more.

This could reduce my income and even reduce my eligibility for full-time benefits. There’s no other way to put it: It would be devastating for me.

What is most confusing for me is that union hotels are seeking to exempt themselves from this requirement. They would continue to use the credit system, while my hotel would be forced to adopt a less worker-friendly alternative.

This makes no sense, especially in a city that prides itself on helping workers. Coworkers and colleagues I have spoken with at other hotels agree.

The City Council should pass a law that guarantees panic buttons for all hotel workers. But it must also listen to the workers and leave the current credit cleaning system alone.

This workload change would hurt us, not help us, and we do not want it.

Maria Aragon

Maria Aragon is a housekeeper at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica


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