UNITE HERE represents workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in Hospitality, Airports, Laundry, Food Service, Gaming, Manufacturing and Textile

Toronto women leaders offer help to housekeepers in protest of "fake green programs" at Sheraton Centre

November 18, 2010

For Immediate Release
Contact Cristal Cruz-Haicken, (416) 523-9279

TORONTO, ON – On Thursday, November 18, a group of over 20 women leaders walked into a housekeeping briefing meeting demanding the hotel put a stop to its “Make a Green Choice.” Carrying mops and cleaning supplies, the women offered to share in the pain that comes from arduous housekeeping work, by helping them clean the dirty “green” rooms.

Professor Deb Cowen, who teaches in the Department of Geography and Planning at University of Toronto said, "Not only is there no change in the environmental footprint, rooms left uncleaned for days on end are a health hazard and require way more cleaning when they're vacated." Programs like the Sheraton "Green Choice" give legitimate greening efforts a bad name by being a front for exploiting employees and reduced service.

Launched in 2009, the Sheraton's “Make a Green Choice” program offers guests incentives for refusing regular housekeeping services such as trash removal and bathroom cleaning. UNITE HERE, the hotel workers' union, estimates that for every 16 “Make a Green Choice” participants, one room attendant loses a shift, only to clean a much dirtier room days later.

"A so-called green room is a dirty room!” said Brigida Ruiz, a room attendant at the Sheraton Centre. "This program is not good for the environment, our children, and our health. We have more work in less hours; breaking our backs to clean a room that hasn’t been serviced in days in the same amount of time as a non-green room. At the end of the day, we end up using more water, chemicals and electricity to adequately clean a guest room that has not been cleaned for several days.

Zahra Dhanani, a lawyer and activist involved in social justice movements for over 20 years echoed, "The job of a room attendant is a difficult and physical job to begin with. With the “green choice” program, room attendants are forced to spend extra time cleaning a room that has been neglected for few days. Dirtier rooms create heavier workloads for housekeepers, resulting into increased injuries." “Work shouldn't hurt."

Delegates included, among others, Paggy Nash, Assistant to CAW President and former MPP, Heather Allin, President ACTRA, and Karen Charnow Lior, Executive Director, Toronto Workforce Innovation Group. The delegation was escorted out of the hotel.

In both Toronto and Vancouver, progressive groups have been asking that MAGC promotional material not be used during their events. Among these groups are Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), Federation of Canadian Municipalities (individual guests), United Steelworkers (USW), International Federation of Environmental Health, and The Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors. The Delta Chelsea hotel in Toronto recently settled a new collective agreement that affirms in writing that no such incentive programs are planned at the hotel.

The Sheraton Centre is operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts on land owned by the City of Toronto and leased to Starwood. Starwood currently also operates three other properties in Toronto: the Le Meridien King Edward Hotel, the Sheraton Gateway (Airport Terminal 3) and the Westin Harbour Castle. Workers at the Sheraton Centre have beein without a contract since January 31st, 2010.

Local 75 represents over 7000 hotel, hospitality and gaming workers in the Greater Toronto Area.

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