Hidden Costs

The City Council is about to consider a major set of hotel regulations that could upend life for hotel housekeepers, put more burden on our struggling small businesses, and add further strain to our City’s budget.

Hidden behind a proposal to require panic buttons for housekeepers — which the hotel community supports, and most are already doing — is an effort to increase staffing by limiting the number of square feet a housekeeper can clean in a day. As the organization representing more than 700 local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce knows that sometimes what sounds good on paper has unintended consequences.

Most hotels are ahead of the City in implementing panic button devices and providing safety training that meets or exceeds state and federal standards. These include injury prevention, sexual harassment prevention, and human trafficking prevention. Nevertheless, we welcome the City’s efforts to ensure that all housekeepers in Santa Monica are safe from violence and injury at work.

What we can’t support is a one-size-fits-all approach to managing the daily operation of 41 very different hotels. Our hotels offer a variety of room sizes and shapes. Daily cleaning depends on a multitude of factors. Some rooms have more beds, lamps, and desks than others. Some have more mirrors and windows. And let’s face it: some guests are messier than others! No hotel in Santa Monica assigns housekeeping tasks by counting square feet because every square foot of a hotel is different.

Unite Here Local 11, the hotel workers union, has told City Council that housekeepers are overworked, underpaid and forced to work overtime. The truth is, the average housekeeper in Santa Monica earns well above the City’s living wage of $16.63 per hour, and overtime rules are already enforced by state and federal agencies. Many of our housekeepers spend their careers with their hotels, raising their families, putting their kids through college, and retiring.

Limiting housekeepers to a certain number of square feet will force hotels to send them home after just a few hours, causing them to lose the income and benefits they and their families rely on.

That means hotels will have to hire more part time housekeepers to cover the work that one full time housekeeper used to do. Those extra costs will be passed on to guests and visitors, resulting in higher rates for some hotels and the closure of smaller, more affordable hotels and motels.

This will make our city less competitive in the tourism industry. Venice, Marina del Rey, and Santa Barbara will take our tourists and the money they spend. Fewer guests at our hotels means fewer patrons at our local bars and restaurants, fewer customers in our shops and galleries, and fewer visitors to the Pier and Promenade. In a City that prides itself on supporting small businesses, this would be a devastating blow.

Our hotels paid $200 million in state and local taxes last year and generated nearly $2 billion for our local economy. That money funds our police and fire departments, as well as services that aid our most vulnerable neighbors. At a time when the City is trying to trim its budget, while still maintaining high quality services and tackling the homelessness crisis, we cannot afford to jeopardize one of our strongest sources of tax revenue.

We hope the City Council will do the right thing on August 27th and vote to protect housekeepers, and not to tell them how to do their jobs.

By Laurel Rosen and the Executive Board

Laurel Rosen is President/CEO of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce

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