The Seattle ballot inititiative designed to ensure hotel workers protections against workplace injury and sexual harassment— Initiative 124, launched by hospitality union Unite Here Local 8 — turned in more than enough signatures to King County at 4 p.m. on Friday to qualify for the November ballot. The minimum required number of signatures is just over 20,000; I-124 supporters turned in nearly 32,000.
The City Council is expected to vote on a resolution next Monday, July 25th, to send the initiative on to Seattle voters this fall.
“We’re just really excited to see the initiative move forward and to be one step closer to passing these protections into law,” says Abby Lawlor, an organizer with Unite Here Local 8 who’s been heading up the I-124 campaign. “We’re pushing [the Council] to act quickly,” she adds, noting that if the approval happens before August 2, I-124 will certainly be on this year’s ballot; if the Council delays for any reason and misses the August 2 deadline, the initiative would be bumped until next year.
That would be a huge letdown to supporters, who now include State Senator Pramila Jayapal, several dozen labor union and nonprofit organizations, and many hotel housekeepers and room servers across Seattle. I-124 is designed to guarantee that some of the protections that Unite Here Local 8 has already negotiated for its members extend to all Seattle hotels, regardless of union membership, including better access to health care, workload limitations, and job security.
Hotel housekeepers and room servers have some of the lowest-paid and highest-risk jobs of any across the country. In Seattle, many earn at or just above minimum wage, putting their positions near the bottom of all available jobs in the city that don’t require a college degree. While the work often results in chronic injury (according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotel and motel employees experience a significantly higher rate of injury on the job than do coal miners), these workers are among the least likely of all full-time employees in Washington state to have employer-provided health care. A vast majority of these workers are women — primarily immigrant women of color — and many report routinely experiencing sexual harassment on the job.
On Wednesday at 5 p.m., Unite Here Local 8 will host a Hotel Safety Summit at the Labor Temple (Hall 8, 2800 First Ave., Seattle, WA 98121) in support of the initiative, featuring Senator Jayapal, several City Councilmembers, labor groups, and, certainly, hotel workers.