Hotels throughout the country have stepped up to improve the sleeping accommodations for overnight guests. This includes super thick mattresses, plush duvets, decorative bed skirts, and five pillows instead of the traditional three. Although the improvements have received high marks from hotel guests, they have caused increased injuries for the nation’s 350,000 hotel housekeepers.

According to reports in the New York Times, housekeepers are having problems keeping up with the more elaborate rooms. At times they are required to make 25 double beds, which includes removal and replacing 100 pillowcases. Rooms also require vacuuming, dusting, washing mirrors, scrubbing bathroom tiles, cleaning hair dryers, stocking shampoo and soap and sometimes hanging bathrooms and cleaning coffeepots.

Unite Here officials, a hotel workers' union, comment that the increased workload will be a major issue in negotiations in this spring with Hilton, Starwood and other hotel chains. The union is threatening its biggest strike ever, one that might involve hundreds of hotels in New York, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Toronto, according to the reports.

A union study based on statistics provided by the hotels has found that since 2002, when the improvements were first introduced, the injury rate for housekeepers has climbed to 71 percent, compared with 47 percent beforehand. Also reported in the article were statistics from Orr Consulting, a firm dealing in ergonomics. They found that the strain of making 12 or more king-size beds a day — many with 115-pound mattresses, 14-pound duvets and three sheets instead of two — exceeded federal occupational safety guidelines on lifting. And in a recent Unite Here survey of 622 housekeepers in Boston, Los Angeles and Toronto, 91 percent said they had work-related pain, 67 percent had gone to doctors because of that pain and 66 percent took medication for it.

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