NCLR’s July 2011 report, “Building a New Economy,” points out that Latino workers make up over 22 percent of the work force in the hotel and accommodation industry, as compared to 14.6 percent of the overall work force. The report explains that Latino workers “are overrepresented in nearly all of the major service jobs in the accommodation industry” – an industry that employs nearly twice as many workers at the low-wage level as compared to overall economy.
More than half of the Latino employees in the hotel and accommodation industry are women. The report suggests that Hispanic women who work as housekeepers may face higher rates of occupational injuries than other workers in the industry. Research from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine indicated that Latina housekeepers had an injury rate of 10.6 – nearly twice the rate of white housekeepers.
“Most of these injuries were related to the rising standards of luxury in hotels, which require workers to lift heavier mattresses, make beds with duvets and multiple layers of sheets and clean large mirrors,” the NCLR report stated. “Many hotels have not accounted for the extra time it takes workers to meet these higher standards. Consequently, some hotels require workers to clean the same amount of rooms – or more – creating intense time pressure that leads to pain and injuries.”
NCLR made two recommendations to ensure Latino and other workers in the hotel industry have access to safe, quality jobs. First, NCLR recommended that government agencies, such as OSHA and the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), must be able to effectively enforce labor laws.
“OSHA and WHD are currently operating at staffing levels equivalent to those in 2001. Additional staff capacity and resources are essential as the economy endures a rocky recovery. Congress should enact President Obama’s budget recommendation of $583,386,000 for federal OSHA, including strong support for state OSHA plans, and $240,937,000 for WHD enforcement for the 2012 fiscal year,” the report stated.
Next, NCLR stressed that employees should be free to organize unions.
“In addition to bargaining collectively for better wages and working conditions, labor unions also reinforce the role of federal agencies like OSHA to ensure that employers are complying with health and safety laws,” the report stated. “Unions inform workers of their rights, actively encourage workers to point out possible violations of the law, and participate in OSHA worksite inspections.”