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Santa Monica Doubletree Housekeeper Testifies on “Temporary” Industry

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

March 17, 2014 -- Gladys Hernandez and her co-worker Maria Cortez both work as housekeepers at the same beachside DoubleTree hotel in Santa Monica. Their duties include scrubbing toilets, taking out trash and changing bed linens.

Seemingly, they do the same job and have similar responsibilities, with one major difference. At $8.50 an hour, Hernandez earns a fraction of what Cortez brings home.

“I did the same work,” Hernandez told California legislators Wednesday. “I wore the same uniform, but I don’t get any of the benefits the directly-employed housekeepers receive.”

Hernandez is considered a temporary worker, even though she has worked at the same DoubleTree Suites Hotel for nearly two years. Because of her classification as a temporary worker, Hernandez does not receive the same benefits and rate of compensation as permanent part-time and full-time staff.

Hernandez shared her experiences as she testified before the California State Assembly labor committee in favor of AB 1897.

The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-San Gabriel Valley), is designed to hold employers accountable for wage theft and other abuses when they use staffing agencies to supply workers.

“Current law is simply insufficient to protect workers rights in the shadows of the subcontracted economy,” Assemblymember Hernandez said.

“We need clear accountability to enforce basic rights and maintain a fair playing field for responsible businesses,” he said.

Gladys Hernandez, who is employed by a staffing agency called HSS, is part of a rapidly growing sector of the US economy. According to the Department of Labor, nearly 17 million people in America are temporary workers. 

From 1990 to 2008, the number of temporary agency workers sent to businesses each day more than doubled. Between 2009 and 2011, 54 percent of all jobs created were in temporary staffing services.

A 2012 study found that California’s temporary workers are twice as likely to live in poverty, receive food stamps and be on Medicaid.  The same study found that in industries like production, wages are almost 30 percent lower than direct employees with similar qualifications.

At Wednesday’s labor committee hearing, Hernandez, an immigrant from Honduras and mother of three, shared what she considers be the worst part of her experience working as a “temp” at the DoubleTree.

On February 21, Hernandez and her co-workers confronted their manager, protesting the hotel's alleged failure to provide legally required rest breaks with a group of Santa Monica community supporters.

The following day, HSS supervisor told Hernandez not to come into work at the DoubleTree. She hasn’t worked at the hotel since, according to UNITE HERE local 11, the regional hospitality workers' union.

“I will not be afraid to speak up about the problems I faced as a ‘temp’ worker – even if that means I’m out of work,” Hernandez said. “If I’m silenced, they win.”

The Doubletree did not return several requests for comment.

While cleaning rooms at the DoubleTree hotel, Hernandez alleged that she seldom had time to take the 30-minute meal period and did not take the ten-minute rest breaks to which she was entitled. She also reports not getting holidays, vacations or healthcare.

On March 11, Hernandez filed a complaint with the California State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. California law allows workers two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute meal period in an eight-hour shift.

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