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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 19, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 34
Mayor, Seattle City Council endorse I-124

Measure would protect hotel workers
Section One
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Mayor, Seattle City Council endorse I-124

Measure would protect hotel workers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Seattle City Council passed a resolution August 15 endorsing I-124, a ballot initiative that would give the city's hotel workers extra protections against sexual harassment and on-the-job injuries.

The resolution was sent to the Council by Mayor Ed Murray, who asked councilmembers to back the initiative.

Seven councilmembers agreed, with only Councilmember Tim Burgess voting no. Burgess said he wanted the Council to remain neutral on the measure.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant was absent and reportedly out of the country. She is on record as supporting the initiative, however.

Speaking in favor of the initiative, Councilmember Lorena González said she had worked in a hotel while in college but had the 'luxury of working in reception.'

'But I understand these are real struggles for workers,' González said. 'It reminds me of when I worked as a migrant farm worker...and how hard these women work to be able to put food on the table for their families.'

Initiative-124 would:

o offer hotel workers protection from sexual harassment and assault by equipping workers with panic buttons in case of emergencies;

o require hotels to post a sign in each room stating that the hotel protects workers and that hotel operators can ban abusive guests for up to three years;

o require hotel operators to ensure that workers can access affordable health and family care; and

o limit the square footage that hotel housekeepers are required to clean in one shift.

According to UNITE HERE Local 8, which represents hotel and restaurant workers in the Pacific Northwest, many women hotel employees complain about harassment and even sexual assault by guests.

The union also says that the injury rate among hotel workers is very high - even higher than for mineworkers. According to a report from Puget Sound Sage, of 1,000 Las Vegas hotel workers surveyed, '95 percent reported workplace pain, and 60 percent experienced severe or very severe back pain.'

'Seattle will soon make a $1.5 billion public investment in the hotel industry through the publicly funded expansion of the Washington State Convention Center,' UNITE HERE 8 President Erik Van Rossum said in May, when I-124 was launched.

'Initiative 124 will ensure that this investment is consistent with our values - creating safe and harassment-free working environments, expanding access to quality health care coverage, and securing harmony between workers and employers.'

The Seattle Hotel Association, which represents hotel owners and operators, opposes I-124, charging that 'I-124 is policy written in isolation,' or in other words, without consulting hotel owners. The owners' group also said that the initiative would create 'confusing workplace rules.'

In an April blog post, the Washington Restaurant Association said the initiative would 'implement a wide range of onerous workplace provisions on hotel employers.'

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