Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Overrepresentation of Immigrant Workers in San Francisco Hotel Industry

Wells, Mariam J. 2000. “Unionization and Immigrant Incorporation in San Francisco.” Social Problems. 47:241-265.

This study explores the changing demographics of San Francisco hotel workers from 1970-1990. The author's focus is on the impact an increase of immigrant workers has on the ability to unionize. She does so using the success of the hotel workers union, H.E.R.E (now called U.N.I.T.E H.E.R.E), as a case study. Occupations such as cooks, dishwashers, bussers, and room cleaners are more than ¾ immigrant - the largest groups being Chinese, Filipino, Central American, and Mexican. Positions such as receptionist are predominantly white and held by citizens. “Front of the house” positions are generally paid more than “back of the house” positions. White men hold the most privileged positions, while women of color hold the least. In the hotel industry in San Francisco From 1970-1990, minority, immigrant, and non-citizen population has risen, while non-Hispanic, white and citizen population has plunged. White and Black groups are underrepresented while minority groups are over represented in the San Francisco hotel industry. For example, Filipino’s comprise 5.4% of the city’s population, but make up 13.7% of the industry population. The article includes a chart comparing the city population and industry population of all ethnic groups. Historically, hotel workers have predominantly been less white & comprised of more minorities compared to the rest of the population, but this change has increased. Wells concludes that the workers are clustered in such a way because of 3 factors: employer recruitment practices, immigrant reliance on social networks to find jobs, and native workers preference for non-menial positions.

The article demonstrates a growing trend of a predominantly immigrant low wage workforce in San Francisco’s service sector. It would be interesting to see how the trend continues from 1990-2000.

1970 – San Francisco’s population 5% foreign born
1990 – 34% foreign born

  • Majority of increase is Asian-Pacific Islanders (56% of foreign born residents) and Hispanic (21% of foreign born residents)
  • Asian Pacific Islander group: 2/3 are Chinese and 1/5 is Filipino
  • Hispanic group: 38% are Central American, 40% are Mexican

Occupations (1970)

  • Managers: 93.8 White, 6.3% Black, 0% API, 0% Hispanic, 0% Other
  • Receptionists: 100% White
  • Room Cleaners: 20.6% White, 47.1% Black, 11.8% API, 20.6% Hispanic, 0% Other

Occupations (1990)

  • Managers: 67.4% White, 0.8% Black, 16.8% API, 10.7% Hispanic, 4.3% Other
  • Receptionists: 76.5% White, 0% Black, 0 API, 23.5% Hispanic, 0% Other
  • Room Cleaners: 5.8% White, 8.3% Black, 51.8% API, 33.6% Hispanic, .06% Other

Room cleaners make up about 27% of all hotel workers and contribute the largest share of immigrant workers, meaning that the largest body of San Francisco immigrants in the hotel industry are Asian Pacific Islander and Hispanic women that clean rooms. Immigrants are 77% of the cooks, 80% of food preparers, and 85% of room cleaners

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