Initiative 124 would offer new protections for hotel housekeepers in Seattle.
Initiative 124 would offer new protections for hotel housekeepers in Seattle. DIEGO CERVO/shutterstock

The Seattle City Council voted today to officially get behind an initiative to offer hotel workers new protections against sexual harassment and workplace injury.

Initiative 124, which will be on your ballot this fall, would require panic buttons and other protections against sexual harassment and assault. It would also require hotel owners to help pay workers' healthcare, limit housekeepers' workloads, and protect workers' jobs when hotels transfer ownership.

Hotel worker advocates say the industry is made up largely of women and immigrants, who are vulnerable when working alone in guests' rooms. Local hotel employees have told stories of sexual harassment and pain.

One hotel representative said at today's meeting that the law was crafted without hotel owner feedback. In a statement to The Stranger, the Seattle Hotel Association complained that "I-124 is policy written in isolation." The association said hotel guests accused of harassment would not get "due process" under the law and that the initiative would create "confusing workplace rules."

In supporting the initiative today, Council Member Lorena González said she worked in a hotel to help pay for college and had the "luxury of working in reception."

"But I understand these are real struggles for workers," González said. "It reminds me of when I worked as a migrant farm worker...and how hard these women work to be able to put food on the table for their families."

The resolution passed 7-1 with Council Member Tim Burgess the only no vote. Burgess said he believed the council should remain neutral on the initiative, as it did when it voted to send the measure to the ballot. Council Member Kshama Sawant was absent.