Last fall, the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency fired two housekeepers after they objected to a collage containing bikini-clad women. The pictures featured their co-workers and themselves on a company bulletin board.
Sisters Marta and Lorena Reyes’ faces were photoshopped on other bodies with their names prominently displayed, as though their co-workers would not recognize them. Apparently, higher ups at the local Hyatt thought the collage would be a great way to celebrate Housekeeping Appreciate Week.
According to Dignityathyatt.org, the general manager, Peter Rice, maintains that the sisters’ firing had nothing to do with them complaining about the pictures. Management later contended that the collage did not objectify women’s bodies or comprise a damaging act.
Faculty from universities around the nation started a petition to reinstate the Reyes sisters and to change the abusive practices at the Hyatt Hotel chain.
We are faculty in the field of women’s and gender studies. We urge faculty and students in higher education to join us in standing in solidarity with Marta and Lorena Reyes. The sexualization of housekeepers by Hyatt management is an appalling expression of power that has no place at work. It has tangible physical as well as psychological impacts. It belongs to a long list of well-documented abusive and unsafe practices that Hyatt housekeepers, many of them women of color, all over the country endure. According to a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine of 50 hotels at five companies, Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate among all housekeepers studied when compared by hotel company. Hyatt has chosen to use its power to humiliate and bully rather than lead the industry in respecting the dignity of women’s labor and their right to a safe workplace.
Hyatt’s recent episode comes on the heals of other infractions hurting workers and their rights. In July, a Chicago Hyatt turned on the heatlamps that hung above striking workers. The hotel opposed a bill that would end the practice of cleaning bathrooms on hands and knees. Yes, they still have their housekeepers cleaning bathrooms on all fours.
Housekeepers, and workers in general, deserve to be treated with respect and to work in an environment that places the well-being of the person above short-term cost saving maneuvers.
Photo by Aaron Krager