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I-124 would protect women working in Seattle’s hotels

The following is from UNITE HERE Local 8:

SEATTLE (May 20, 2016) — In employee break rooms throughout downtown Seattle this week, hotel workers are saying “yes” to Initiative 124, becoming the first signatories to bring the initiative to the ballot. The proposed law would protect Seattle’s hotel housekeepers from sexual harassment and inhumane workloads, improve access to affordable family medical care and provide basic job security for employees of large hotels.


“Guests harass me and my coworkers all the time,” said downtown hotel employee Ermalyn Magtuba, who has worked in Seattle hotels for 16 years, including as a housekeeper, server, and room service server. “They’ll answer the door naked or in their underwear. It makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed. I don’t know of other jobs where women have to put up with the kinds of things that go on in hotels.”

More than 80 percent of hotel housekeepers in Seattle are women, a majority of whom are immigrants and people of color. Sexual harassment is particularly threatening for women who work alone in hotel guest rooms.

“No woman should feel unsafe at work, whether due to harassment and violence or dangerous workloads,” said campaign spokesperson Abby Lawlor. “By placing this measure on the ballot and passing it into law, voters will send a strong message that Seattle protects women.”

The initiative would provide hotel housekeepers with panic buttons and create a standard response procedure for hotel management to better address reported acts of harassment or assault by guests. I-124 also puts an end to inhumane workloads by limiting the amount of square footage housekeepers clean in a shift to safe levels.  Housekeepers suffer higher rates of on-the-job injury than coal miners because of the strenuous and repetitive nature of their work.

“I’ve worked as a housekeeper for 33 years,” said Thoy Kim, an employee at another downtown hotel. “I always feel pain in my shoulders and arms from making the beds.”

I-124 expands access to healthcare for workers and their families by guaranteeing that large hotels either provide affordable quality health insurance or pay the additional compensation employees need to secure healthcare coverage themselves.

The initiative is being funded by contributions from hotel housekeepers who are members of UNITE HERE Local 8, the union representing workers at downtown Seattle hotels including the Westin, the Edgewater, the Hilton and the Arctic Club.

“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. Initiative 124 will ensure that this investment is consistent with our values–creating safe and harassment-free working environments, expanding access to quality healthcare coverage, and securing harmony between workers and employers,” said UNITE HERE Local 8 President Erik Van Rossum.

Seattle voters will have the opportunity to sign the petition to place I-124 on the November ballot over the next several weeks.

unite-here-8-logoUNITE HERE Local 8, the hospitality union of the Pacific Northwest, represents 5,000 workers in hospitality and foodservice throughout Washington and Oregon, including Seattle hotel workers, foodservice workers at the Washington State Convention Center, Seattle stadiums and SeaTac airport, and workers at the Space Needle.

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