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Maids Ordered To Hand-Wash Floors

December 2, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ Chambermaids at Boston’s luxurious Copley Plaza Hotel have been ordered to put aside their mops and start scrubbing floors by hand, angering union leaders who say washing floors on hands and knees is demeaning.

″A maid is a maid, and that’s just what she has to do,″ said Alan Tremain, president of Hotels of Distinction, which operates the Copley Plaza for owner John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co.

He said the hotel maintains its reputation by being ″a hands-on business, with a lot of attention to detail. The minute the bags are carried from the car, they are given to a bellboy in the lobby. The silver is polished when it’s put on the table.″

Copley’s nearly 60 maids are not exempt, he said, adding he believes the Boston Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union Local No. 26 is protesting the order because contract negotiations are coming up in December 1988.

Union President Dominic Bozzotto said the hotel’s maids were ordered Nov. 10 to turn in their mops. Signs in the hotel directed the women, who are paid $7.15 an hour to start:

″There will be no mops used in the rooms of this hotel until further notice 3/8 Please help yourself to as many clean rags as you like for hand washing floors.″

″This means that they can only clean with their hands, and that means they’ll be on their hands and knees,″ Bozzotto said. ″The hotel knows that 99 percent of these maids are minorities and most of them are older women. It’s just outrageous that in 1987, we have no cleaning instruments to do this job.

″The scene of a white male sitting in his hotel room reading The Wall Street Journal while the black maid is in the bathroom on her hands and knees - it’s just preposterous.″

Most of the maids are unwilling to speak out against the new policy for fear of losing their jobs, Bozzotto said. One who asked that her name not be used said the maids planned to fight the policy by asking for a meeting with management.

″I think the policy is downgrading for us ladies,″ she said. ″We have to get on our hands and knees to clean. We’d rather use a mop.″

Sigi Brauer, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, said the Ritz’s maids can either hand-wash or mop floors. Irene Correa, housekeeping spokeswoman for New York’s Plaza Hotel, said maids there have to clean floors by hand using a small brush.

Maids hired by Copley Plaza, where rooms cost $140 to $195 a night, are shown a training video produced by the American Hotel and Motel Association, Tremain said. The video recommends that floors be scrubbed with clean rags.

It also tells maids that hotel housekeeping ″is a vital and interesting area in which to work,″ and refers to the work ″as the heart of the operation.″

Bozzotto said several organizations have complained to the hotel about the new policy, including the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women. A John Hancock spokesman, Rich Bevilacqua, said the company had no comment.