Fearful hotel housekeepers rally at court

Housekeeping staff from New York hotels jeer Dominique

Housekeeping staff from New York hotels jeer Dominique Strauss-Kahn as he arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Courts building. (June 6, 2011) (Credit: AP)

One said she is always afraid of cleaning bathrooms. Another cringes when she is asked to come into a hotel room, and makes a quick exit after delivering fresh supplies.

The tales came from fearful hotel room attendants and housekeepers who work in New York City's five-star hotels and who are paying close attention to the case against a French politician and businessman accused of attacking one of their own at the Sofitel hotel May 14.

The housekeepers, picketing at a courthouse rally Monday, vowed to make French businessman Dominique Strauss-Kahn an example. "This is about respect," said Lena Thompson, 59, of the Bronx, who has been a room attendant at the Plaza Hotel for 14 years. She said she came into Manhattan on her day off to face off with Strauss-Kahn at his court appearance. "We'll be back again to keep up the fight and encourage all the women that if a guest touches our bodies to report it right away."

Thompson was among dozens of women, some dressed in their uniforms, who showed up to ask for better working conditions.

"Some rich people think that because we work at a hotel that we are poor and that we would sell ourselves for a few extra bucks," she said. "I work with integrity to support my family."

The women of Local 6 of Unite-Here, which represents hotel and restaurant workers, said they want their employers to provide them with alarm necklaces to alert hotel security when they are in danger.

"When I am in the bathroom and cleaning the tub or the toilet, someone can come up behind me so we need this alarm to call security," said Linda Valle, 39, of New Jersey, who has been working at the Hilton on 54th Street for 18 years.

"We just want to do our job and get out safe," said Milagros Martinez, 36, of the Bronx, who has worked for 16 years at the Westin hotel in Times Square. "I want the judge to send a message out that just because you have money it doesn't mean you can get away with treating working people or poor people like slaves."

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