The other side of the eco-friendly culture: Layoffs and harder work for hotel housekeepers who stay

In encouraging hotel guests to conserve water and electricity, a major hotel chain has made the work of housekeepers harder because rooms tend to be dirtier. According to the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 15. 2014), the Starwood hotel chain has begun a 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 voluntarily participated, “saving more than 223 million gallons of water and 961,000 kilowatts of electricity from 2009 to 2013,” the company said.

The Tribune report notes hotel housekeepers say the program is killing their jobs, their legs, and their backs.  Notes Lucila Chavez, “We are totally exhausted.” She says that 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. By comparison, before the program started, she could clean up to 20 rooms in a day because some rooms just needed a light touch.

The program has also led to layoffs. Earlier this month more than two-dozen women and Unite Here organizers marched into lobbies of several Chicago hotels to deliver a letter calling for the program to eliminated — or at least changed to one that doesn’t result in job losses.

For the entire Chicago Tribune report, click here.