CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — The arrest of the head of the International Monetary Fund for the alleged sexual assault of a New York hotel housekeeper has emboldened housekeepers at Chicago hotels to tell their stories of unwanted encounters.
“They encounter guests alone, behind closed doors,” according to their union vice president, Jo Marie Agriesti. “The most important thing right now is to break the silence.”
Housekeepers stood with mops and buckets on the steps of the old Chicago Water Tower on North Michigan Avenue, detailing things that, they say, happened to them in Chicago hotel rooms.
Claudia Virto said was cleaning an occupied room during a convention when she was confronted by a naked guest.
“When I walked out, he was completely naked,” she said. “I got like freaked out, really scared.”
She says she complained, but management wouldn’t do anything.
“I couldn’t do anything else because I was afraid to lose my job,” she said
Appolonia Rivera says she was upset by a guest in a bathrobe who exposed himself.
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“He was closing his legs, opening and closing his legs,” she said.
She reported the flasher.
“And the supervisor was just laughing about it,” she said
The housekeepers held the protest to force hotel management to take the harassment complaints seriously.
Advocates for the hotel housekeepers say they are a highly vulnerable class — mostly female, often immigrants, working alone in isolated conditions.
“We need to fight for ways to protect these women as well as others on the job,” University of Chicago Prof. Virgina Parks said.
The head of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association told CBS 2 that sexual harassment of housekeepers is not a problem.