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Give Low Wage Earners Dignity + Pay

Allison London

One of the hotel industry’s most important resources is their housekeeping staff. These hardworking men and women earn little and are rarely tipped. There are millions of people like room service attendants — sharp, talented individuals, working at what we often call “low skill” jobs. You know them: the server at your neighborhood grill, the barista working during your morning coffee run or the home health worker who cares for your parent. It might even be you. Every day, these workers pour their intelligence and ingenuity, craft and creativity, and mind-boggling resourcefulness into jobs where these attributes are sometimes appreciated, but rarely rewarded. Why does this matter, you ask? When we stereotype or lazily assume low-wage workers to be “low skill,” it reinforces an often unspoken and pernicious view that they lack intelligence and ambition, maybe even the potential to master “higher-order” skilled work. In an economy that is supposed to operate as a meritocracy — but rarely does — too often, we see low wages and assume both the work and workers are low-value. This bias makes us overlook people for better-paying positions in which they might have excelled, hindering their social mobility.

Too many people who clean rooms and cook food live in poverty. They’re working dead end jobs with little hope. The housekeeper’s job is the most thankless job at any hotel. Housekeepers perform the most physically demanding work, cleaning an average of 10 to 14 rooms a day, yet are often invisible to the typical guest. These are the workers who are stripping and remaking beds, cleaning bathrooms, getting rid of the trash and vacuuming your room. On average, maids and housekeepers make just $21,800 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tipping them for their hard work seems like a good idea, but very few do it. The American Hotel and Lodging Association recommends tipping housekeepers $1 to $5 a night, depending on the level of service and cost of the hotel. Jacob Tomsky, a veteran hotel worker and the author of the hotel expose, Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality, suggests the high side of that figure.

At least one hotel chain has decided to address the issue. Marriott International recently partnered with Maria Shriver’s A Woman’s Nation to launch a new tipping initiative. They’re calling it “The Envelope Please” to encourage hotel guests to leave a gratuity for housekeepers.

However, David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute, argues, “encouraging an employee pay structure that depends on tips is flirting with danger. We know that … workers in industries where tips are the dominant form of income … that sort of structure creates extremely erratic income flows for those workers. It’s hard to budget and plan because income can vary widely week to week,” he says. “This is an example of a large professional corporation trying to shift some of their compensation costs onto consumers as opposed to paying good wages that workers can rely on.”

And it’s not just housekeeping and fast food workers dealing with erratic or low wages. There’s another 100 million working adults in the U.S. without bachelor’s degrees, some 60 million of whom currently earn less than $15 per hour. In misjudging the potential of these workers, we not only undermine our civic values of fairness and equality of opportunity; we also lose the additional work, wages, ideas and improvements they would otherwise have created, contributed and earned.

As an employer, you have the ability to help provide your workers the dignity they deserve. It’s as easy as providing pay on demand. GoDo overlays their software with no change to your current payroll process. They float your payroll for thirty days too! Imagine the boost in morale and increase in productivity when your hard workers feel valued in real time for a job well done.

Wages certainly don’t equal the worth of a person but they do give a person a sense of worth! All meaningful work contributes to society and deserves dignity. GoDo helps you give it!

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