Blackstone Hotel housekeepers protest for lighter workloads

Latonia Marshall, who has worked at the hotel for 14 years, said the hotel has been busy and she has to clean up to 15 guest rooms a day.

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Blackstone Hotel housekeepers, supporters and Unite Here Local 1 members picket outside the Blackstone Hotel in the Loop demanding better working conditions, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

Blackstone Hotel housekeepers, supporters and Unite Here Local 1 members picket outside the Blackstone Hotel in the Loop demanding better working conditions, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Blackstone Hotel housekeepers and their supporters held a brief but raucous demonstration Wednesday in the Loop demanding a more manageable workload as visitors return to downtown Chicago.

Room attendants say they aren’t being given enough time to clean rooms, forcing them to rush from assignment to assignment, which leads to poor standards for guests and increased risk of injury for staff.

The group protested in front of the hotel, 636 S. Michigan Ave., banging on drums and rattling noise makers. A chorus of chants like “si se puede” could be heard from a block away.

Latonia Marshall, who has worked at the hotel 14 years, said it has been busy, and she has to clean up to 15 guest rooms a day.

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Guests of the Blackstone Hotel walk past a group of housekeepers, supporters, and Unite Here Local 1 members who are picketing outside the Blackstone Hotel in the Loop demanding better working conditions, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“Housekeeping is a very hard job,” Marshall said. “Sometimes we have guests that stay a long period of time, so it’s extra time to clean the rooms. It’s extra dirty, extra dusty, soap scum in the shower, lots of trash, so it’s taking us longer to clean the rooms.”

Marshall said she wants management to reduce the number of rooms each of the 35 housekeepers are responsible for cleaning, adding that cramming too many rooms is a safety risk for staff.

“There’s injuries, your back hurts, your body is just aching,” Marshall said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s very time-consuming and stressful on your body.”

Jesus Morales, who has been at the Drake Hotel over 30 years, joined the demonstration. The 65-year-old said he knows how hard the job can be for housekeepers and wants their workloads lightened because it’s also not safe for guests.

“If they get too many rooms, the housekeepers have to do their work much faster and sometimes they don’t leave the room as clean as they should,” Morales said. “That’s especially not good right now because of the pandemic.”

Workers at the Blackstone are represented by UNITE HERE Local 1, which joined in the demonstration. The union has been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with Blackstone’s management company Sage Hospitality since 2019.

“We’re here in support, and for the company to stop abusing people,” Morales said.

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