I work cleaning in the summers, and while it is a fun job for some spending money during vacation, in general it sucks ass to an impressive degree. The pay may indeed be somewhat higher than minimum wages on paper, however you are paid for hours worked meaning that time spent travelling from one location to another and waiting for a location to be available is completely unpaid. This time spent not free but not working is the source of much annoyance yet seemingly the higher ups are unable to avoid it due to the fact that most companies would like cleaning staff to be out of the way during the early morning or after closing.
Another annoyance is that the hours given are seemingly designed to make a regular dinner at a normal time hard if not impossible. The last job of the day tends to start between 18:00 and 17:00 and last at least an hour. Surround this work with two periods of travel and if you’re unlucky a 20 minutes or so of awkward waiting after the previous job and the only reasonable solution to feeding yourself becomes packing some dinner with you.
I could go on with more specific anecdotes, like that time we had to clean maggots from the drains of a kitchen which had a smell that made me gag due to the incompetence of their replacement staff, or the constant need to remind some clients that it is their duty to supply paper towels and toilet paper, but you get the point. Also on a more subtle level cleaning isn’t that great for your health in numerous ways (work related asthma, stress, skin disorders). Put concisely, cleaning is a shit job.
It is quite odd that companies keep letting these people with good reason to be annoyed into their offices with no supervision, often even giving them the keys. I am disappointed (or maybe confused) that this hasn’t led to a global pandemic of data and valuables theft. It can’t be that internal security is particularly tight, I’ve seen boxes of metal parts in the open and unlocked computers showing a desktop background reminding the user of data security.
Of course cases do occur, a couple of notable ones include:
A man once stole 14 boxes of medical records for the paper
A small fortune was stolen through ID theft using a hospital janitor
A live in maid sold her bosses designer stuff to pay for her kids surgery
The housekeeper of the Israeli Defence Minister did a bit of spy work for some cash
All of these can be summarised the same, a worker does their work and decides to make some money on the side. For those of whom we know the motive it was a want or need to have more money than the low wages paid.
Beyond these publication worthy cases there’s a link-rotted 197 housekeeper survey by cleaning supply company Zoro that shows that 43% of housekeepers stole from guests during or after their stay (so forgotten items). This may sound like a high number, however considering these are cases of having ever stolen from the safest possible target (staying temporarily, perhaps foreigners, often losing stuff) it is notably low.
So for any cleaner may i suggest the following, as unionisation is hard and collective action hard to coordinate could we instead perhaps do some collective thieving. Take some little things here and there, let a shady friend copy some of your keys, look around for anything juicy if someone keeps forgetting to lock their computer. Things too small or indirect to pin on you. People will notice eventually and with some luck, people will react with the cheapest solution, paying you better.
Material conditions should (both in the moral and probable sense) have material consequences, so shouldn’t we make sure of that.
-Written by Anastasia