We Are Not Machines

by Rosa de la Rosa  

Housekeeper, Le Meridien Cambridge, 14 years of service

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2012—The last raise I got was 25 cents, but the increase in transportation and health insurance costs ate up the 25 cents. So not fighting for a better future is not an option.

I am from the Dominican Republic but I moved to the United States with my family 15 years ago. In the Dominican Republic, I went to school, I went to college. I got married and became a mother. I used to work as a hotel cashier and as a seamstress. I even taught sewing for eight years.

When we came to Boston, my sister-in-law recommended me for the housekeeper job at the Le Meridien and it’s the only job I’ve had since I’ve lived here. I’ve seen a number of different companies manage the Le Meridien, but HEI is the worst. Even though I’ve been working here for 14 years, I only earn $15 an hour, even though most other hotels in the area pay $17 an hour. The last raise I got was 25 cents, but the increase in transportation and health insurance costs ate up the 25 cents. So not fighting for a better future is not an option. HEI rubs it in by giving us discounts to other HEI managed hotels, but they don’t pay us enough to afford the travel costs to stay at their hotels.

Being a housekeeper is a difficult job, but under HEI it is worse. We have to clean 16, 17 or even 19 or 21 rooms a day. We clean the rooms, take out the recycling, change all the paper goods, change the bathroom curtains, dust everything, and move all the tables. We have to clean each room in less than 30 minutes. How can you do a good job? Sometimes there is no spray to clean the bathroom, so we have to use shampoo. Sometimes linens are ripped or stained. We have to use them because there is nothing else to use. We have to work, work, work. We’re human beings. We’re not machines. They still haven’t invented a machine as fast as us.

Because of the speed at which we are forced to work, there is a great burden on our bodies. My hands, my feet, my back are all injured.. My doctor tells me that my health problems are because of my workload.

Since coming to America, my husband has passed away. I continue to support my mother and my siblings in the Dominican Republic and my daughter as she, like millions of others here in America, struggles to find permanent work. Yet, I still want to achieve the American Dream. Even though I’ve lived here for 15 years, I still do not have the luxury of saying that I am familiar with the United States. I do not have money to travel, but I wish I did. My dream is to see the Niagara Falls, to see it frozen and raging. But I don’t have the money for that. I just work to pay bills.

It is important for guests to hear our stories, to understand why we are standing up for respect and justice. Look at us, look at how we work. We are almost modern-day slaves. We are only asking to be treated like human beings.

Rosa de la Rosa's article was sent to us by the hotel workers' union UNITE HERE Local 26 and is posted here without changes.

Workers at Meridien and other hotels are overwhelmingly low income people, our neighbors, many of whom who live in public housing and voucher households. In line with ACT's standing policy of boycotting non-union hotels, we support the workers and the union at Meridien.

The union sent us a list of upcoming events where you can learn about and show support for them:

  • Upcoming events:

    • Thursday, December 6th, 4-6pm @ the hotel:  Join workers in an informational picket in front of the hotel.
    • Sunday, December 9th, 1-2pm @ the hotel:    Join us for the Workmen’s Circle’s annual children’s protest against sweatshops.  This demonstration will be led by the shule’s 5th graders but all supporters are welcome.  The youth are marching in support of the workers and will be sending a delegation of youth in to talk to the hotel’s management about their concerns.  Join us for this visibility event.  Other children are welcome to come and support the event as well. A flyer is attached.
    • Wednesday, December 12th, 1-2pm @ the hotel:  A group of interfaith leaders will be doing a delegation visit to talk to the general manager of the hotel.  Please let us know if you would be interested in joining this event.  It is being jointly sponsored by the Mass Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice and the New England Jewish Labor Committee.

The union says: "Please support the workers and join them at one of these events!  Let us know if we can count on you to come – call or email Lisa Clauson (lclauson@local26.org, 617-429-1677) or Art Bergevin (abergevin@local26.org, 617-480-2093)."