Daily hotel room cleaning means a happier and healthier Hawaii

By Nely Reinante (Housekeeper, Hilton Hawaiian Village)

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? Contact Paola Rodelas.

Hilton Hawaiian Village housekeepers and workers from other departments are passing out leaflets to guests, encouraging them to join our call to ask for their rooms to be cleaned daily

Tourism drives Hawaii’s economy, while housekeepers are the heart of a hotel. As tourism is returning, we—the housekeepers—are excited to welcome our guests to show off our island’s alluring beauty and share our warmest spirit of Aloha once again. However, only a few housekeepers are being called back to work because many hotels are not providing daily room cleaning. This leaves housekeepers like me who aren’t called back to work enveloped with worries, as we’ve been furloughed for 14 months already. Where are we going to find a decent paying job like our UNITE HERE Local 5 union jobs, should we get permanently laid off?

Jhorina Ancheta, a single mom with three kids, is a furloughed housekeeper at Hilton Hawaiian Village. She says, “If there was daily room cleaning, more housekeepers would be called back to work. If I can have my job back, I will be able to support my family the way it was pre-pandemic. We are only able to survive now because my bill and loan payments are deferred until September.”

Some hotels like Hilton Hawaiian Village are taking advantage of the pandemic to cut down labor costs by not providing daily room cleaning. Guests are spending hundreds of dollars a night in our hotel. Their room is supposed to be the cleanest and safest place to be. We, the housekeepers, are in charge of creating this atmosphere. A new study by HospitalityNet on hotel cleanliness shows that 79% of respondents are most concerned about their room’s cleaning and sanitation, while 91% are more likely to stay at a hotel that helps their employees who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Housekeepers who are currently working are suffering from stress and fatigue because of the dirty rooms. Maria Luz Espejo, a 59-year-old housekeeper who has worked for 18 years at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, said, “It’s harder to clean a filthy room that hasn’t been cleaned every day, compared to a room that is being cleaned every day. Sometimes we can’t finish the rooms in a timely manner, even if we skip our lunch break. I am not getting any younger, so cleaning dirty checkouts makes me suffer with body aches and joint pains.”

Smaller hotels like Queen Kapiolani, Sheraton Maui, and The Kahala Hotel have implemented daily room cleaning. Hilton Hawaiian Village should set the standard for daily cleaning because Hilton was the #1 place to work pre-pandemic and the Hilton Hawaiian Village is the largest Hilton hotel in the world.

Carmelita “Joy” R. Melegrito, a housekeeper at The Kahala Hotel, says, “I’m happy that we have daily room cleaning because it means less worry about our safety. I got two injuries pre-pandemic because I was rushing to clean a dirty room. If it was already hard before the pandemic to clean rooms, how much more now if there’s no daily cleaning?”

The Kahala workers took numerous actions to voice their concerns to management regarding their working conditions. As a result, they got their demands, including daily room cleaning.

Housekeepers are ready to fight for our jobs. We won’t stop until management works with us to resolve this. We will work together, passing leaflets to guests encouraging them to join our call to ask for their rooms to be cleaned daily.

Returning to work would mean my family can keep our apartment. We can’t go back to my sister-in-law’s two-bedroom apartment where we stayed for eight years when I was still working in a non-union company. Every hardworking individual deserves a better place to work and live.

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? Contact Paola Rodelas.