continued But hotel housekeepers see the bed quite differently. Luxury beds such as the Heavenly Bed require workers to lean much farther over them and to lift their heavy mattresses as they tuck in sheets. Recently the Manchester Grand Hyatt, a nonunionized hotel, increased the number of rooms housekeepers are required to clean each day from 16 to 24. To compensate, management reduced the tasks the workers must complete in each room. As a result, the hotel could say that workloads were not becoming greater. What housekeepers found, however, was that "stayover" customers often complained to them, instead of management, that certain work was not being completed. Unfulfilled expectations, such as having sheets changed every day, ended up costing workers tips. In a contrasting attitude, managers told the students in interviews that the luxury beds were not a problem.
Master's degree student Marilisa Navarro speaks with me about interviewing the housekeepers, which she did in both Spanish and English. "I found a mix of workers," she says, "some very outspoken, some concerned about the hotel punishing them, and some not willing to talk at all." Navarro recalls that there were Tijuana residents among those she interviewed, and of those living in San Diego, most were on some form of public assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (created by the federal welfare reform law of 1996, which combined the services of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training).
I ask Navarro how she thinks a study of housekeepers by the Manchester Grand Hyatt would turn out. And would the hotel be able to marshal facts backing up its point of view? Navarro tells me that the Grand Hyatt's management refused to be interviewed. "I assume that they would have a different picture [than ours]," she says, "but we were not granted access to any of their information, given their refusal to be interviewed."
Doesn't this mean, I wonder, that results of hotel-industry studies will only reflect their researchers' interests? To professor Esbenshade I bring up the "objectivity" question. "What do you say," I ask, "to those conservatives who believe universities are dominated by leftists? Aren't they likely to see your students' report on San Diego's hotel housekeepers as nothing more than bleeding-heart liberalism? Whatever happened to the quest of sociologists in the past for a 'value free' science?"
Esbenshade replies that sociologists today have become more realistic about pure objectivity. "They recognize that all research comes with certain perspectives or theories about how the world operates," she says. "And many sociologists, myself included, are concerned about the underprivileged. That doesn't mean we can't be objective about the facts. It is incumbent on the researcher to present all the relevant information.
"In my discipline," Esbenshade continues, "there has been a whole history of industrial sociologists who tried to help business use workers more efficiently. And on SDSU's campus, the departments of recreation, parks, and tourism, and hospitality and tourism management, do a lot of studies that benefit the tourism industry. So here there is certainly a mix of perspectives on society. The business department, for instance, is huge."
The perspective of the students I spoke with, Micah Mitrosky and Marilisa Navarro, includes the conviction that the Manchester Grand Hyatt should share the wealth with the workers who keep it going. New picket lines appeared outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt in December. But they're not likely to make a difference. For their part, Mitrosky, Navarro, and their student colleagues can only repeat how Doug Manchester takes advantage of public land and taxpayer funds to line his own pockets. And the students can keep bringing up those luxury beds that so nicely comfort his customers' backs.