Hotel union tucks support behind California legislation mandating fitted bedsheets

California’s state legislature is considering requiring hotels use fitted sheets.

Senate Bill 432, which requires hotels to use fitted sheets and provide housekeepers with long-handled mops, just passed the state Senate on the coattails of support from hotel workers union Unite Here and is set to go to the state’s House soon.

The union cites a 2009 American Journal of Industrial Medicine study that found hotel workers had a 25 percent higher injury rate than other service workers and said that housekeeping staffers can throw out their backs lifting mattresses too much.

Unite Here spokeswoman Leigh Shelton told TheDC the high injury rate from that study isn’t directly related to bedsheet-changing, but that’s certainly part of it.

“This [workplace injuries for housekeeping staffers] isn’t just necessarily from changing sheets,” Shelton said in a phone interview. “We’ve seen high instances of repetitive motion injury and that comes from the bending and the lifting. That stuff’s been documented by OSHA, it’s been documented by us, by ergonomics experts, by loads of people. This isn’t stuff that we just, like, pulled out of our ass.”

According to the California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA), though, the study Unite Here cites is “scientifically unsound” and “biased,” because three of its nine authors work for the union.

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Unite Here even produced a three-minute video, en Espanol, starring a Latina woman housekeeper who explains how and why the non-fitted sheets and lack of long-handled mops wear her down physically and psychologically.

WATCH: Unite Here’s video advocating for California to mandate fitted bedsheets at hotels:

YouTube Preview Image

Regardless of what sheets they use to make hotel beds, if housekeepers get hurt on the job, they still qualify for workers’ compensation.

Conservative groups point out that they think California’s political priorities are just a little bit off the reservation. Rick Manning, a California native who used to be the Department of Labor’s Public Affairs chief of staff and who is now the communications director for Americans for Limited Government, told TheDC that this shows California’s politically elite left-wing is in the pocket of the labor unions.

“Once again, California Democratic Party state lawmakers show how out of touch they are as they seek the good will of their labor funders at the expense of both common sense and the consumers pocket books,” Manning said in an email.

Glenn Spencer, a labor policy expert for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks this shows the state government in California has mixed-up priorities.

“They’ve just been told they have to release 30,000 prisoners, they’re on the verge of putting in place card-check organizing for agricultural workers,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “You’ve got these serious kinds of issues, and this is what the legislature, and this is what the legislature decides they have time to deal with?  You know, bedsheets?”

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CHLA estimates the cost for implementing Unite Here’s plans for fitted bed sheet and long-handled mop mandates in hotels statewide is at least $20 million.

“As hospitality and tourism are viewed as one of the industries that can lead California out of this protracted recession, further burdens on large employers as well as family-owned businesses should be very thoughtfully considered,” the CHLA said in an April 2011 guidance on SB 432. “This recovery is fragile.”

Even if Unite Here succeeds in pushing this legislation through California’s legislature and gets Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it, it’s unclear at best whether fitted bedsheets will actually solve the problem the union is trying to solve. Shelton challenges the CHLA’s cost estimates, too, saying they’re an exaggeration.

“I don’t think this bill is going to cost the hotel industry these astronomical figures the hotel lobby is throwing around,” Shelton said. “Let’s see some proof of those numbers.”

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  • Tracy

    Is this the Daily Holler? These people labor for minimum wage in conditions you can’t even imagine. When their bodies finally give out after thousands of days of cleaning up after hotel guests and the “stoop labor” of mitering corners sheet corners, lifting mattresses, mopping and vacuuming, they are no longer able to work. Afterward, they get the bonus of name-calling, along with the inability to work.

    Please tell me if any of you still have fitted sheets in your homes and if you even use a mop, or even know how.

    This is another example of hotels being cheapskates on the backs of their employees, and in this job market and viciousness of the pubic, knowing they can get away with it.

    Sorry the video isn’t as slick as the hotel advertisements. the unions just don’t have the budget of corporate hospitality.

  • Fuhkyu

    These poor, poor, people are leaving work tired!  Oh the agony!  Tired I say!  Where is the social justice? Where is the outrage?  They get tired at work for crying out loud!  Thank goodness she wasn’t forced to have to speak English (the language of the Oppressor) in this vitally important union hack video.

  • Basslakemgr

    I’m thinking Sen. ‘Ponce’ DeLeon needs to go looking for the Fountain of Youth… because it’s apparent that he’s sucked the Fountain of Stupidity dry.
    Unless you’re ready to open a Textile factory in the next 6 months, good luck being able to find the amount of fitted sheets that all the hotels are going to need to meet this new law.
    Who’s going to be policing this and what is the fine/jail time?
    May need to expand the vacant  bed count in our jails by releasing hardened criminals to make room for all the hotel owners who will be rounded up.

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