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The Labor of Spring Break

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Party on dude, it’s Spring Break! Time to go to Florida, drink to oblivion, puke everywhere, and have some great stories to tell to our bros back home!

But of course, there’s a labor side to Spring Break. What do you think it’s like being a housekeeper in one of these hotels? Pretty bloody awful, as Michelle Chen writes in this fantastic article.

Among them is Adelle Sile, a Haitian-born housekeeper with cherry-hued corkscrew curls, a compact frame, and deep-set eyes. Around this time of year, thanks to the influx of spring break and Easter break vacationers, the time she has to clean each room during her eight-hour shift gets squeezed as guests stretch their mornings to the final minutes before checkout. When she does finally get in, she sometimes opens the door to find vomit, empty bottles, crack pipes, marijuana buds, and makeshift mattresses of cushions and blankets strewn about—the season’s bacchanalian detritus.

“My back [is] hurting me. Picking up trash, picking up trash, trash everywhere, like this, like this,” Sile said recently, demonstrating the scene in her modest, pleather-upholstered living room in her working-class immigrant neighborhood in North Miami. By the end of the day, she said in a Creole-inflected drawl, “My body dead.” (The Fontainebleau declined to comment for this article.)

Compared with even lower-paid work in retail and fast food, hotel jobs are considered a decent way to earn a living in Miami, offering one way for poor immigrants to work toward living wages and benefits after a few years. Though tourism service jobs start at poverty pay scales, the fast-growing sector offers a narrow path out of drudgery. But the annual pilgrimage of college students for spring break coincides with a sharp rise in both complaints and grievances—complaints from guests about poor service and grievances filed by workers in disputes with managers over working conditions or contract rules.

“Spring break is all about partying, getting drunk, acting wild. … And the housekeepers, they’re the ones that have to do the cleaning up after,” said Kandiz Lamb, an organizer with the hospitality workers union Unite Here, which represents workers at a handful of area hotels and casinos. “It’s all kind of stuff that happens. People getting so drunk [they’re] like almost drowning in pools, falling asleep in hallways, aggressive, getting into fights in the hallways.”

Of course for the guests, the workers are not even worth thinking about. I wonder how many of them leave any tip at all at the end of their stay. And while being young and stupid is a rite of passage for college students, the hotels are not providing the extra staffing necessary to deal with this, even as they jack up their room rates for the onslaught. Like in every other industry, the desire for maximum profit comes on the backs of the workers, usually women, who are also subject to sexual harassment and sexual assault by guests.

Just another terrible job in a service economy that provides no dignity for working-class people.

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