Hotel housekeeping is grueling work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotel workers have among the highest rates of on-the-job injury of any group of workers. In Washington, they are among the least likely of all full-time workers to receive health insurance through their employers. Hotel housekeepers and room servers are also mostly women—the majority of them immigrant women of color—and as we’ve reported, the anecdotal rates of sexual harassment on the job are also horrific (“Hotel Hell,” June 15). Given all this, it only makes sense to support a citywide initiative launched by a local hospitality union that’s designed to address the above concerns. 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. Critics of the initiative—largely hotel-industry representatives—call the measure’s stipulations overreaching and Draconian. They say many hotels already have these kinds of protections in place. They also point to I-124’s union-exemption clause: If workers belong to a union, their hotel will not be subject to some of the measure’s stipulations, to allow for freer collective bargaining. We ourselves recognize that the union exemption may be faintly disguised self-interest; employers might find the law onerous, leading them to encourage unionization in hopes of a better deal. But if the byproduct of passing I-124 is a stronger local union, so be it. We believe the result is a step toward justice for a long-exploited class of workers, union-backed or no.
Read the rest of Seattle Weekly’s endorsements for the 2016 general election here.