Initiative 124 would give Seattles 7,500 hotel workers new protections against sexual harassment and work-related injuries.
Initiative 124 would give Seattle's 7,500 hotel workers new protections against sexual harassment and work-related injuries. DIEGO CERVO/SHUTTERSTOCK

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"This is the money that pays for my mortgage, my car," Ermalyn Magtuba told The Stranger last month, "so I just have to deal with it."

Magtuba is a local hotel worker, and she and others in the industry had just finished a panel where they told stories about the sexual harassment and physical pain they regularly face on the job—issues a city initiative on your ballot this fall aims to address.

Initiative 124 would require panic buttons and other precautions for employees who work alone in guest rooms or experience sexual harassment or assault on the job at large hotels. It would also require hotels in the city to protect workers' jobs when hotels are sold to new owners, limit housekeepers' workloads, and help pay for workers' healthcare.

Unite Here Local 8, which represents workers in the hotel and service industry, proposed the initiative and is single-handedly funding the campaign. Now, Mayor Ed Murray is getting on board and the city council is likely to join him.

This week, Murray sent the city council a resolution supporting the initiative. According to the resolution, more than 80 percent of hotel housekeepers are women, most are immigrants, and more than half have experienced sexual harassment during their careers. UPDATE: After the council and mayor's office said they couldn't find these survey results published publicly, they changed the resolution language to instead include vague statements about the challenges faced by hotel housekeepers.

As Unite Here's Abby Lawlor, told me when the initiative launched: "It's an industry built on the mentality that the guest is always right."

Murray's support here is notable. The mayor has sometimes stayed out of controversial local initiatives (like last year's public campaign finance measure) and labor issues (like in December, when he awkwardly refused to sign or veto legislation allowing rideshare drivers to unionize). He also sometimes has a blind spot on gender equity issues. Plus, business interests, whom Murray will need on his side come reelection next year, don't love this initiative. The Washington Restaurant Association has called the provisions "onerous" and the president of the Seattle Hotel Association said "many of [the initiative's] claims are unjustified." (UPDATE: Seattle hotels and state lodging and restaurant groups have also donated $58,000 to an opposition campaign.)

So, good on you, Ed. And good on Council Members Kshama Sawant and Mike O'Brien, who've already announced their support for the initiative. The full Seattle City Council will vote on the resolution Monday.