Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday August 5th, 2015, 3:55pm

Housekeepers Call For Workplace Safety Improvements At Hotel Monaco Chicago

Housekeepers at the Hotel Monaco Chicago say the workplace pain they experience is impacting their quality of life.

The housekeepers, most of whom are immigrant women, took their concerns to a picket line outside the hotel Friday, urging management to improve working conditions. The non-unionized housekeepers at Hotel Monaco, 225 N. Wabash Ave., saw support from UNITE HERE Local 1 leaders and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. 

Hotel Monaco housekeepers say their strenuous workloads are taking a toll on their bodies. 

"Most of the pain comes from bending down to make all the beds, and I have to carry all (the) dirty linen on my back," housekeeper Maricela Gonzalez, 44, said through a translator. "I have a lot of pain in my back."

Gonzalez, who has cleaned rooms at Hotel Monaco for 15 years, has three daughters ages 10, 11 and 13. When she gets home from her shift, Gonzalez said it's difficult to play with her children because she's physically exhausted and in pain.

"Sometimes to play with them, help them with stuff, I have to take three Advil or more," she said.

UNITE HERE Local 1 recently surveyed 18 out of Hotel Monaco's approximately 29 housekeeping department workers. According to the union, all respondents said they experience pain at work, and 78 percent reported taking pain relievers.

Gonzalez and her colleagues delivered a letter to Hotel Monaco's management Friday, asking the company to detail what it has done thus far to reduce "physical stressors" for housekeepers.

The letter informed management of various housekeeper injury prevention recommendations made by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The federal recommendations supported by the Hotel Monaco housekeepers include providing workers with adjustable-length dusting tools, lighter-weight vacuums, motorized carts and knee pads for kneeling tasks as well as modifying the bed making process to reduce mattress corner lifting.

Another housekeeper Mayra Munoz, 41, has worked at Hotel Monaco for 14 years. She said cleaning hotel room after hotel room causes her pain in her hands and back.

"We don't want to be machines," she said through a translator. "We want to be treated like humans."

One way the hotel could help reduce the risk of injury for housekeepers is by providing them with a cart so they don't have to carry dirty linens over their shoulders, explained Chicago City Clerk Mendoza.

"These are simple requests," Mendoza said. "Something that simple would go a long way from preventing a mother from going home completely exhausted, unable to not just play with her kid, but even bend down to greet her children or lift up her children. These are simple pleasures that we take for granted, but these little simple pleasures are what make life grand."

Hotel Monaco is one of four Chicago hotels operated by the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group Inc. Workers at two Kimpton Chicago hotels, the Hotel Palomar and Hotel Allegro, are represented by UNITE HERE Local 1.

Since November 2014, Hotel Monaco workers have been publicly organizing to form a union, according to UNITE HERE Local 1 officials. 

Hotel Monaco Chicago issued the following statement to Progress Illinois in response to Friday's housekeeper protest: "Taking care of our guests and our employees is our top priority. We are passionately committed to providing our employees with a safe and enjoyable working environment. We've been consistently recognized as a top workplace, most recently ranking number 11 on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work for List as a result of our steadfast commitment to our employees."


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