On Tuesday, Unite Here Local 8 announced that five of the six major mayoral candidates have signed a letter urging the Seattle Hotel Association to drop its appeal against I-124, a ballot measure that passed last year and takes steps to protect hotel workers from sexual assault and other industry hazards. The only serious candidate who didn’t sign? Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, whom Seattle business groups strongly support.
Local 8 asked all six frontrunner candidates to sign the letter, says organizer Abby Lawlor (referring to Cary Moon, Nikkita Oliver, Mike McGinn, Jessyn Ferrell, and Bob Hasegawa). She says Durkan “canceled a scheduled endorsement interview with our members yesterday, which was when other candidates signed on. We followed up to give her the opportunity to sign before we released the statement and she was unresponsive.”
“I made clear in my questionnaire for Unite Here 8, I voted for Initiative 124,” responds Durkan. “I support the will of the voters. I am the only candidate for Mayor that has represented victims of sexual assault and harassment. Every person, including hotel workers in our city, should have the right to go to work without fear of sexual harassment, assault or injury. While the opponents of I-124 have a right to appeal, it’s not a decision I would make given the clear dismissal from the Superior Court judge.”
Here’s the entire text of the letter:
“As candidates for Mayor of Seattle, we stand with hotel workers and voters in support of Initiative 124. The hotel industry’s continued efforts to undermine these essential health and safety protections by suing the City are disappointing and don’t reflect our real values. We all agree: hotel housekeepers in our city should have the right to got to work without fear of sexual harassment, assault or injury. When immigrant women and women of color speak out about unsafe working conditions, they should be believed and supported. We urge the Seattle Hotel Association to drop its appeal of the King County Superior Court decision which upheld the initiative and get to work implementing this important law.”
Here’s how we described I-124 when we endorsed it last year: “I-124 would limit the number of hotel rooms that housekeepers are required to clean per shift; install ‘panic buttons’ so that all Seattle hotel workers have access to immediate help in the event of sexual harassment or assault; create reporting systems so that guests who harass workers repeatedly can be barred from hotels; require employers to pay a small monthly stipend to low-income full-time workers to help offset the costs of health-care premiums; and help protect workers’ jobs if a hotel is sold to a new owner.”
Durkan has raised the most of any candidate, by a wide margin, and about two thirds of that money comes from donations of at least $400. (This is especially impressive because she is supported by many of the same donors who already shilled out more than $400,000 to Mayor Ed Murray’s now-defunct reelection campaign.) She also has the largest average donation size of any mayoral candidate.
More important than campaign contributions, though, is independent PAC spending. So far, two groups have donated a total of $50,000 to the People for Jenny Durkan PAC. One, the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) is a vehicle of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. The other is Seattle Hospitality for Progress—the political arm of the Seattle Hotel Association and Seattle Restaurant Alliance.
Also on Tuesday, a major area union, SEIU 775, announced its endorsement of Durkan. “While all the candidates are progressive and pro-labor, Jenny Durkan stood out for her experience, her knowledge, and her ability to step in and be an effective mayor,” said Ed Solseng, a home care worker, member of the SEIU 775 executive board, and central Seattle resident, according to a press release.
Durkan is using the endorsement to deflect charges she’s a business candidate.
“What is happening here today … proves that is not true,” she said during a press conference, according to the Seattle Times.
This post has been updated with Durkan’s response.