Seattle hotel workers push for sexual harassment protections
SEATTLE -- A signature drive started this week to get a wide range of protections on the ballot for hotel workers. Topping the list are measures to keep guests from sexually harassing staff who clean rooms and deliver room service.
Seattle's top hotels offer guests the finest in luxury and hospitality. However, some women who work in the industry believe there is a constant threat of sexual harassment.
"I'm scared because it's not safe," said one long-time Seattle hotel employee who asked not to be identified.
She said she has had multiple run-ins with men who crossed the line while she was on the job. In one instance, she went alone on a room service call.
"He opened the door and he is naked," she said.
Her experience is shared by many hospitality workers in the area. In response, Local 8 -- representing 5,000 hotel and hospitality workers -- is launching a signature drive this week to get Initiative 124 on the November ballot.
"This initiative is really about making sure that women are protected no matter where the harassment is coming from," said Abby Lawlor, a researcher with Local 8.
Initiative 124 would require panic buttons for employees who work alone in guest rooms. Other provisions include keeping lists of customers accused of assault and harassment. Some guests could be banned entirely.
The initiative includes other provisions that hotel operators might ultimately oppose. For example, housekeepers' room-cleaning workloads would be limited to minimize injuries. Better access to affordable healthcare would also be required, as well as more job security provisions.
"We want to send a really strong message, both through gathering signatures and the voting in November, that Seattle is a place that protects women."
Hotel workers have until mid-June to gather more than 20,000 signatures if they hope to qualify their initiative for the November ballot.