Public health in action

February 5, 2018 | Press Releases & Announcements

UNITE HERE! successfully drives policy change to reduce injuries among hospitality workers in California.

UNITE HERE! successfully drives policy change to reduce injuries among hospitality workers in California.

CUNY SPH doctoral candidate Pamela Vossenas and alumnus Diana Colon-Guzman led a successful effort to change policy to protect hospitality workers as part of a statewide union effort in California.  Vossenas is director of the Worker Safety and Health Program for the hospitality workers’ union UNITE HERE, where Colon-Guzman is a Senior Occupational Health Specialist.

On January 18, 2018 in Oakland, CA, Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board approved New Section 3345, Hotel Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention, at a meeting attended by hotel housekeepers from across the state.

UNITE HERE first petitioned Cal/OSHA to develop such a standard in 2012. Nearly 300 member housekeepers from seven UNITE HERE local unions in metropolitan areas across the state have been part of Cal/OSHA’s process over the past six years.

Lifting 100-pound mattresses dozens of times each day and pushing heavy carts and vacuums across miles of carpet can lead housekeepers to suffer strain, sprain and tear injuries that can require physical therapy or even lead to permanent disability.

“Many times our work is not recognized, and we who do this work are under-appreciated,” said Ana Maria Rodriguez, 46, a housekeeper in Anaheim. “With this vote, our work has more importance and we have a way to protect ourselves.”

Under the new standard, hotels will be required to reduce injury risks for housekeepers and offer them proper tools, such as long-handled mops or devices to help make beds. Housekeepers will get training on injury risks and have the right to suggest solutions to those risks.

“Hotel housekeepers are the invisible backbone of the hospitality industry. Overwhelmingly women, immigrants, and people of color, housekeepers face high rates of workplace injury. The state of California has recognized the seriousness of the dangers housekeepers face and took an important step to protect these workers,” said Vossenas.

“It has been a privilege to be part of this inspiring and dedicated effort in pursuing and winning a new regulation to protect hotel housekeepers from work-related injuries,” said Colon-Guzman.