Gathering mourns San Antonio hotel worker’s death; demands better worker safety measures at hotels

The folowoing was submitted by Pancho Valdez

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!” – Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, UMW & IWW organizer 1837-1930

On January 10 more than 20 San Antonio community and labor activists gathered in front of the Crockett Hotel in downtown San Antonio to mourn the tragic death of Ms. Gloria Rodriguez.

Ms Rodriguez, 65, plunged to her death on December 29 when she backed her housekeeper’s cart into the elevator on the sixth floor of the hotel. The elevator, however, wasn’t at the sixth floor as she had anticipated. Ms. Rodriguez had worked at the Crockett since 1999. She is the mother of four children, 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Family stated that she had been planning to retire soon.

Activists from UNITE HERE, a hotel worker’s union, San Francisco de Espada, the church where Rodriguez worshipped, and various other community people placed white roses on a make shift altar in front of the hotel after a moment of silence and prayer. The group also read aloud demands for more stringent safety measures to be implemented by area hotel management. These demands include:

1) The accident must be fully investigated by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Texas Department of Regulation and Licensing (the state agency mandated to conduct elevator inspections), so that the responsible party or parties can be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law and Ms. Rodriguez’s family can be provided answers about the accident.  It has been reported that the elevator in question had been causing problems prior to the tragedy, had been “repaired,” but again began causing problems.

2) The safety of all hotel workers must become a management priority and workers must feel free to speak out about unsafe conditions, practices, etc. Hotel workers must be encouraged to inform managers about dangerous situations at work immediately.

3) Workers should not be forced by management to put themselves in dangerous situations such as whether to use a problematic elevator or to enter a guest room that appears unsafe.

The group urged hotel management to be responsive to workers’ concerns about unsafe working conditions and to protect workers’ safety as required by OSHA, to stop the use of suspect equipment until it can be evaluated, to employ professionals to determine the safety of suspect equipment before returning it to use, to encourage all employees to report problems to hotel management, and to assure all employees that there will be no retaliation for reporting or refusing unsafe job assignments.

The union also stated that hotel housekeepers are overwhelmingly women, immigrants, and people of color, who are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry. Their work and its dangers are largely unknown to the public. Today housekeepers are speaking out about the hazards they face in local hotels. While Ms. Rodriguez’ death is uncommon, her tragedy is an extreme reminder of the dangers that housekeepers and other hotel workers face daily.

While the immediate members of Ms. Rodriguez’ family were not in attendance, they had given their support for this event. Area activists while outraged and saddened by Ms. Rodriguez’ death are also hopeful that this tragedy will encourage area hotel workers to speak out and organize.

Employees at the Crockett Hotel are not organized, but the hotel worker’s union stands in full solidarity with any hotel and other hospitality workers for safer working conditions, better pay and benefits, and the respect and dignity that all workers deserve!

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