Sexual assault, pay gap, and heavy workloads were all topics of discussion last Tuesday at a film screening and panel discussion entitled, “Rape on the Night Shift” at California State University, Long Beach.
The documentary explored the stories of sexual abuse immigrant women face working in the janitorial industry. The film chronicles how law enforcement, industry, and government ineffectively handle the issue.
The event also featured Long Beach speakers like Juana Melara, a room attendant at Long Beach Westin Hotel for 20. Melara argued that the hotels don’t protect their workers and the housekeepers and female employees often encounter degrading comments and uninvited exposure from guests.
“People sometimes don’t report it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening,” Melara said. “There isn’t any policy that says [guests] are not allowed to come to their room where the maid is cleaning the room.”
Sophia Cheng, a community organizer at the Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) in Los Angeles was another speaker at the event. She said Long Beach has a low- wage hospitality work force, which is disproportionately affected by sexual harassment and abuse.
In a recent study, which interviewed 668 current and former restaurant workers from 39 states, ROC found that 66 percent of female restaurant workers report being sexually harassed by managers.
ROC has currently teamed up with the Long Beach hotel union to help reduce sexual harassment in the service industry locally.
“We hope to build a movement where it forces society to look at real solutions for safety for workers, particularly for safe environments for women, where we don’t have to deal with sexual assault or sexual harassment when we go to work,” said Sandra Diaz, who is a political director with United Service Workers West (SEIU) and a speaker at the event.