Will Daily Cleanings Return to Washington, DC Hotels?

Emergency legislation allows for mayor to set cleaning standards

April 13, 2022

Many hotel housekeepers have lost their jobs or seen their workhours reduced due to new cleaning policies set during the pandemic that eliminated daily guest room cleanings. Emergency legislation passed last week in Washington, D.C. may result in housekeepers going back to work, DCist reports.

The new legislation, which the Washington D.C. Council passed by a vote of 11 to 2, authorizes the district’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, to set standards regulating the cleaning and maintenance of hotel and motel rooms. UNITE HERE Local 25, a labor union which has hotel workers among its members, pushed for the legislation. Union leaders say hotel regulations have not been updated in more than 65 years.

Among the two legislators who voted against the legislation, one explained the action may be an overstep of the mayor’s power at a time when hotels are struggling to make up from business losses due the pandemic. The second legislator expressed environmental concerns about daily cleanings.

However, the Sierra Club rejected the hotel industry’s environmental reasoning for less frequent cleaning, explaining that cleaners need to use more chemicals when rooms are cleaned less frequently. Rooms that are maintained every day don’t get as dirty and can be cleaned with fewer products.

As for the argument about the council overstepping its power, union leaders said the action is needed to put people back to work. Hotel spokespeople, including those at the Washington Hilton, said the reasoning behind less frequent cleanings was to offer hotel guests “choice and control.” Union leaders believe the reasoning has more to do with creating higher profits at the expense of workers.

Once the hotel standards bill becomes law, Mayor Bowser is expected to issue a regulation that requires hotels to clean guest rooms daily unless a guest declines. This standard would be similar to legislation set by San Francisco nearly two years ago. The San Francisco legislation has come under criticism and the city’s hotel association filed a lawsuit against it. Washington, D.C. leaders expect the same pushback to occur in their city.


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