NewsArizona News


Latino housekeeper speaks out about the dangers essential workers face on the job

Posted at 10:33 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 01:39:16-04

PHOENIX — Travel restrictions are still in place because of the continued spread of the coronavirus. That means many Arizonans are looking into staycation options this summer.

FULL SECTION: Everything you need to know about coronavirus

While thinking about the health of your own family, a Valley housekeeper is also asking that you think about the safety of the hotel workers as well.

“I only know how to clean. I would like to work from home with a computer, but I don’t have an education and I don’t know how to use a computer,” Luz Wellman, a Phoenix hotel housekeeper, told ABC15 in Spanish.

Wellman says she has been working as a housekeeper for the last 13 years.

She says she wishes she could clean hotel rooms through “Zoom” to protect herself from getting infected with COVID-19. But, her fear has already become a reality.

“I returned to work in May when the state reopened. There was no control at all. The staff wore masks and gloves, but I didn’t see any guest wearing a mask,” said Wellman.

She believes she contracted the virus from a guest in June while working at a hotel in Phoenix.

“I infected my grandson’s wife because I went to visit without knowing I had it,” stated Wellman.

Working from home during the pandemic is not an option for essential workers like Wellman. She is now one of the many Latinos to test positive for COVID-19.

After quarantining herself, Wellman was finally able to get tested again and has been cleared to go back to her job.

“I’m honestly scared to return to work,” said Wellman.

She says she is afraid of getting sick again and infecting her family. “My son and his wife are deaf. Both of them and my seven-year-old granddaughter live with my husband and I.”

She is asking the public to please wear a mask in the hallways and even in the hotel rooms. “They act like they don’t care how you feel or if you get sick. Also, don’t leave the rooms so dirty,” Wellman pleaded.

“All of us want to see the state reopen, but we want to do it safely,” said Rachel Sulkes, the communications director for Unite Here Local 11, the union representing Wellman and other hospitality workers.

Sulkes says hospitality workers were some of the first ones to get laid off. It is an industry that has suffered great losses because of the pandemic. It is also where the majority of the workers are women of color and immigrants who won’t apply for unemployment benefits.

“At least one worker confided to me that she didn’t want to apply for unemployment because the Trump administration has been very "iffy" about what would happen once you apply for citizenship,” stated Sulkes.

Unite Here has a hardship fund to help workers like Wellman. “If people want to make a small contribution, but really what we want is to encourage a safe and responsible reopening,” said Sulkes.

For now, Wellman just wants to remind people not to forget about essential workers like her, “we also have families. We have feelings and our bodies also get tired.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Association announced that guests would be required to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces.

You can find a list of those guidelines here.