Today, as many as 7,500 low-wage workers in Seattle are employed by the hotel industry, which could grow by as much as 30% in the next five years. Seattle hotels have hit record occupancy as a result of the city’s ongoing economic boom. Despite this, hotel workers experience unchecked harassment, unmanageable healthcare costs, inhumane workloads, and the constant threat of unemployment. The hotel industry is an important source of accessible jobs for women, immigrants and people of color in Seattle. The $1.5 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center will be a massive public investment in support of the city’s large downtown hotels. Health and safety standards are necessary to protect hotel workers and to ensure that the industry itself invests in protecting the women who make it profitable. 

PROTECTION FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT

Housekeepers, room service servers and other hotel employees often work alone in guest rooms. 80% of hotel housekeepers are women. Guest-initiated sexual harassment in hotels is pervasive and normalized and women work under fear of harassment and assault. Across all industries, 8% of sexual assaults occur in the workplace. A “guest is always right” service mentality deters hotel employees from making complaints against guests and management from taking action.

What I-124 does: 

  • Provides panic buttons to workers and requires posting of anti-harassment policy inside all guest rooms.
  • Creates standardized response procedure for employee reports of guest-initiated harassment and assault including documenting such incidents, banning harassing guests and giving workers advanced notice when known harassers return.

IMPROVED ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE FAMILY MEDICAL COVERAGE

Hospitality workers have the lowest rates of access to employer-offered health insurance and the second lowest employer contribution towards healthcare premiums of any industry in the state of Washington. Average monthly employee premiums for family coverage exceed $500, well out of reach for low-wage hospitality workers. Despite the Affordable Care Act, many workers still do not have access to affordable family health insurance through their employer or the health care exchange, and many continue to be reliant on state aid.

What I-124 does: 

  • Requires employers to either provide quality affordable family health insurance to low-wage employees or additional compensation to offset employee healthcare costs.
  • Ensures that all low-wage hotel employees in Seattle working for large hotels will have access to quality affordable family insurance at no more than 6% of annual income.

PROTECTION FROM INJURY DUE TO INHUMANE HOUSEKEEPING WORKLOADS

Hotel housekeepers suffer extreme rates of work-related injury due to the strenuous and repetitive nature of their jobs–a higher rate of injury than coal miners. In luxury hotels in particular, housekeepers must repeatedly lift mattresses weighing well above federal occupational safety standards. 95% of housekeepers experience pain resulting from their work. Management policies and practices have been found to significantly impact injury rates for hotel workers.

What I-124 does: 

  • Limits the guest room area a hotel housekeeper is required to clean in an eight hour shift to roughly fifteen rooms with further reductions for strenuous room cleanings and provides time and a half payment for additional square footage above the maximum.
  • Improves housekeeper injury rates by reducing unsafe housekeeping workloads and slowing down the pace of work.

ACCESS TO BASIC JOB SECURITY

Hotel properties are often treated more as real estate assets than business operations and are frequently bought and sold. Seattle’s economic boom has intensified sale activity in the hotel market, as have recent mergers and acquisitions by multinational hotel corporations. Changes in hotel ownership and management are disruptive to the livelihoods of existing workers, who stand to lose their jobs during such transitions.

What I-124 does: 

  • Gives existing hotel employees an opportunity to retain their jobs under a new employer.
  • Reduces disruptions and improves service in the hospitality industry by allowing experienced workers an opportunity to keep their jobs when ownership or management changes.

Read the full text of Initiative 124 here: Seattle City Clerk