Hotel Maids Say They Were Locked Out

Times Staff Writer

Maids and laundry workers continued to picket the Glendale Holiday Inn on Wednesday, alleging that owner Joe Perry locked them out Monday when they tried to go back to work.

On Feb. 12, 18 members of the hotel's housekeeping staff walked off their jobs after they were told they would have to clean 17 rooms per eight-hour shift instead of 16. The maids were also told to sweep the balconies, a task previously assigned to the janitorial staff.

Officials of the housekeepers union said the dispute is at an impasse, with both sides in violation of the contract between the hotel and Local 531 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union. That contract prohibits walkouts by employees and prohibits lockouts by management.

"They're both in the wrong," Sam Nuckolls of Local 531 said.

Number Uncertain

The union Tuesday said it was representing 23 protesting workers, including five who joined the original 18 who walked out. The picketers said they counted 33 workers, including a non-union houseman, now off the job. The remainder of the housekeeping staff is not protesting and remains on the job.

Nuckolls said that Perry agreed last week to a 16-room workload for the housekeepers. Through his attorney, Perry made other concessions also, including agreeing to give a week's pay to maid Arely Velasquez. Velasquez was laid off for a week after she missed a day's work because her child was ill.

However, the concessions did not end the protest. For one thing, the picketers broadened their demands to include higher wages, originally asking for $5 an hour. The maids now earn $3.40 an hour, a nickel more than minimum wage.

The picketers said more than their wages and workload are at issue. Through translators, the women, mostly Latinas, alleged harsh working conditions and mistreatment by hotel management. They also charged neglect on the part of Local 531.

Maid's Comment

"We wanted a union but we wanted a good union," maid Elisa Garcia said.

Perry locked the workers out Monday when they continued to picket the hotel, Nuckolls said. Perry would not comment.

Although the Glendale picketers said they acted alone, Nuckolls asserted that the protesters had been encouraged by dissident members of the housekeeping staff at the Burbank Holiday Inn.

On Jan. 30, 28 Latina housekeepers and laundry workers began picketing the Burbank hotel, which is also owned by Perry. Like the Glendale workers, they alleged poor working conditions, harsh treatment by management and indifference on the part of Local 531.

The Burbank women returned to work Feb. 11, the day before the Glendale workers walked out.

Burbank Maids May Use Mops

Gloria Tartaglione, who frequently spoke to the media for the Burbank protesters, commented after their return to work: "They are a little better off, not much." One victory, she said, was that the maids no longer have to scrub bathroom floors of guest rooms on their hands and knees but may now use mops.

Tartaglione, executive housekeeper at the Burbank hotel, said she supported the protest by her staff but was not the group's leader. Tartaglione is a member of management, not of the union.

The Burbank housekeepers went back to work with a new sense of solidarity and a better knowledge of which government agencies to turn to when they had a grievance, she said.

"At least the people now are more valiant to ask for whatever is their right," the Cuban-born Tartaglione said. "They know their rights and they are no longer afraid to ask for them. This is an important step in the life of any person, any worker. Because if you are afraid, people can step on you."

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