Hotel Maids Strike, Cite Overload

Times Staff Writer

Eighteen maids at the Glendale Holiday Inn walked off their jobs Tuesday after they were told they would have to clean 17 rooms instead of 16 rooms each day. They remained off their jobs Wednesday.

The walkout occurred less than two weeks after 28 housekeepers and laundry workers staged a similar walkout at the Burbank Holiday Inn. Both hotels are owned by Joseph Perry of Glendale, who also owns the Long Beach Holiday Inn.

The Burbank workers, who alleged unfair employment practices on the part of the hotel and disinterest on the part of their union when they walked out Jan. 30, returned to work Monday.

'Sweetheart' Contract

The Glendale maids, mostly Latinas who speak little English, walked a picket line Tuesday, echoing many of the complaints heard earlier in Burbank.

Some carried the same picket signs that had been brandished during the Burbank protest, including a placard asking, "Where is Local 531?" Another sign alleged that the contract between owner Perry and the maids' union, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 531, was a "sweetheart" arrangement that benefited Perry more than the workers.

Margarita Vega, who acted as an interpreter for the picketers, said Perry "told them to clean 17 rooms and the balconies, and . . . the executive housekeeper told them, if they didn't like it, they could leave."

Until now, the maids had not been cleaning the balconies and they resent being told to do the extra chore. They said the janitorial staff had been doing that job.

Perry met with union officials Wednesday and agreed to a number of the protesters' demands, including a 16-room daily workload. The women continued to picket Wednesday, against the advice of the local, contending that most of their complaints were unresolved.

The maids "don't mind taking back 16 rooms as long as they treat them like human beings, because now they treat them like animals," Vega said.

The protesters said maids are not allowed in the restaurant of the 600-room hotel and are routinely laid off from work for a week or more if they do not provide a physician's note or other proof of illness after an absence.

Most of the women earn $3.40 an hour, 5 cents more than the minimum wage.

Wages Lowered

According to the protesters, working conditions have worsened since the local and the hotel signed a contract last November.

"Before the union, they said we were going to get more money, but now we are getting less," protester Promila Tyagi said. "It's not fair."

Most of the maids were making $3.90 an hour before the contract went into effect. Local 531 has filed a grievance against Perry, contending that he illegally raised wages close to the $4 mark during the period when the contract was being negotiated, in an attempt to undercut the union.

As the women picketed, union officials Sam Nuckolls, Joe Criscione and John Convery denied allegations of a "sweetheart agreement" between Perry and the local.

"We've argued more with Perry than anybody we've ever negotiated with," Criscione said. "These people have walked out legitimately," he said. "We have a problem here of overloading" the maids. "We're going to back them up 100%."

Perry declined to comment on the issues. But when Criscione said he agreed with the protesters that working conditions at the hotel were poor, Perry said: "Come on now, Joe. Take it easy. That just runs us down and the union down."

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