Jenny Durkan at a recent candidate forum.
Jenny Durkan at a recent candidate forum. ULYSSES CURRY

Unite Here Local 8, a union that represents local hospitality workers, is calling out Jenny Durkan for comments she made during a recent candidate forum.

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During a debate on Sunday, Durkan's opponent Cary Moon asked Durkan about big business spending on her behalf, including some funding from hotel groups. Durkan was the only major mayoral candidate during the primary who did not sign a letter calling on a hotel group to drop its lawsuit against Initiative 124, a measure passed last year to give hotel workers more protections against sexual harassment and assault.

In response to Moon's question, Durkan said she voted for the initiative but wasn't given a fair chance to sign on to the letter.

"It was at a forum in an interview of candidates in the primary where I wasn't even there," Durkan said. "I couldn’t go because of a family obligation. So they had everyone who was in the room sign it and then they released to the press without even talking to me, with a press release saying Jenny wouldn’t sign. So it was one of those political gotchas that is in the silly season.”

"I will stand up for hotel workers any day of the week," Durkan added. "I will protect them like I did when I was U.S. Attorney."

Today, Unite Here Local 8's Abby Lawlor said Durkan's characterization of the letter signing process is "simply not true."

"Jenny Durkan was scheduled to meet with our members on the afternoon of July 10," Lawlor said in a statement. "A few days before the interview, she cancelled. All of the other top candidates attended Local 8’s candidate interviews that day and signed on to the statement. We contacted her campaign via email afterwards and offered them another chance to sign the statement before it was released publicly. Jenny Durkan has never responded to us...To our knowledge, she never expressed a willingness or a desire to sign on."

According to Durkan's campaign Facebook page, she did a walking tour in the University District on July 10.

Unite Here Local 8 has endorsed Moon.

Durkan's campaign has not yet returned a request for comment. UPDATE: In a statement, Durkan's campaign said:

As Jenny made clear months ago, Jenny strongly supports I-124 and voted for the initiative. She told that in writing to Unite Here in her questionnaire answers to them in July, and because of her support of working families, she's earned endorsement of two dozen individual unions representing tens of thousand of people in Seattle.

Jenny is the only candidate that has actually represented workers and enforced their rights. She is going to enforce the law and protect hotel workers and all workers. She will do it because it’s the right thing to do - not part of a political stunt.

Lawlor's full statement is below.

Local 8 Statement on Jenny Durkan's "Gotcha" Comments at Recent Voter Forum

It has come to our attention that mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan misstated the facts at a recent voters forum. Last Sunday, Durkan told voters that she was the victim of a political gotcha because Unite Here Local 8 released a letter supporting hotel workers facing sexual harassment and pointed out that it was signed by five of the then-candidates for Mayor (Seattle Weekly, 7/11/17). The letter specifically called on hoteliers to drop their lawsuit challenging I-124, which was passed by more than 77% of Seattle voters.

In the recording, Jenny Durkan claims "I couldn’t go [to the Unite Here endorsement interview] because of a family obligation. So they had everyone who was in the room sign it, and they released to the press without even talking to me, with a press release saying Jenny wouldn’t sign. So it was one of those political gotchas that is in the silly season.” (KUOW recording, at 40:30)

That is simply not true.

Jenny Durkan was scheduled to meet with our members on the afternoon of July 10. A few days before the interview, she cancelled. All of the other top candidates attended Local 8’s candidate interviews that day and signed on to the statement. We contacted her campaign via email afterwards and offered them another chance to sign the statement before it was released publicly. Jenny Durkan has never responded to us. Instead she issued a response defending the hotel association's "right to appeal." To our knowledge, she never expressed a willingness or a desire to sign on.

Since then, the same groups trying to overturn voter-passed protections for hotel housekeepers, the Seattle Hospitality for Progress PAC and Washington Hospitality PAC, have contributed more than $50,000 to People for Jenny Durkan, an independent expenditure also funded by the Chamber of Commerce.

The hotel industry’s appeal of Initiative 124 is ongoing. The question of whether or not our next mayor will defend this voter-approved initiative and stand with women experiencing sexual harassment against a powerful and moneyed industry isn’t a gotcha: it is essential for our members and for other working people in Seattle as we choose who to vote for.

Unite Here Local 8's letter is still open for signers, and Jenny Durkan is welcome to join Cary Moon in signing it.