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'Safety' initiative aims to force hotels to unionize

Seattle by Day

View from a hotel room (composed by the photographer from 18 single images)

Crosscut is publishing articles presenting varying perspectives on the general election's ballot measures.

Hotels are stewards of our hospitality community and represent Seattle to the rest of the world, one guest at a time.

Over time, hotels and their team members have found we are stronger when addressing issues together.

Because of our history of working together, we want Seattle voters to be well informed before casting their votes.

Seattle voters are being misled and provided false information about the safety provisions of city Initiative 124.

Earlier this year, a group of hotel labor advocates wrote an initiative with the specific goal of putting burdensome regulations on hotels, most of which can be negotiated away by unions in bargaining. The purpose is to ultimately force the unionization of all Seattle hotels.

But, that’s not what you will hear about I-124. You will hear that the initiative protects women. The initiative mandates “panic buttons” in hotels where any employee is conducting work in guest rooms.

Had the authors actually worked with safety experts or the Seattle hotel community, they would have uncovered the facts about what is already being done to protect employees. And, perhaps, working together, we could have come up with additional protections that make sense for all team members.

The fact is, Seattle hotels are committed to a safe and healthy work environment for all team members. That’s why large and small hotels across Seattle either already have or are implementing the best practices and technology required to ensure the safety of their team members.

The authors of the initiative argue that I-124 is needed because hotel team members need panic buttons.

Seattle voters should know its hotel community is ahead of the initiative sponsors, because most hotel team members already have safety alerts. The few Seattle hotels that don’t have safety alert systems in place are in the process of implementing them right now — without this initiative.

Seattle hotels also have a range of policies designed to protect team members — from requirements to work in pairs in some situations to keeping guest room doors open at all times.

I-124 was written in isolation, ignoring the input of safety experts, hotels and state and local agencies.

Because the initiative includes vague language, it will lead to years of costly courtroom clashes to clear up what the law means.

The initiative contains deep constitutional and legal violations. One concerning aspect of I-124 is that hotels must blacklist any guest accused of harassing a team member, even when there is no legal complaint. Without evidence or investigation, accused guests are permanently blacklisted with no notice and no way to clear his or her name.

We all agree that hotel team members need to be protected, but that’s not our system of justice in the United States.

The initiative puts in place a complex set of new laws and potential investigations for the Office of Labor Standards with no cost estimates or funding for the additional work.

The taxpayer will bear the burden for the new city staff and resources necessary to enforce it. The city will either have to raise your taxes or take money from other critical priorities to pay for this unfunded initiative.

The Seattle hotel community is open to working on creative solutions to address safety and other issues and will work with employees to find the best solutions. This initiative does not solve problems, but creates multiple new ones, and we can do better.

The nation views Seattle as a city of progressive policy.

And Seattle works best when we come together — employers, team members, experts and state and local government — to find forward-thinking solutions to our challenges.

Let’s vote down this initiative and write one that includes the input of government agencies and experts and will equitably protect all hotel team members.

We've come together before with the $15 minimum wage and we can do it again so that hotel team members, guests and employers all have a voice and all can come together to make the workplace safer.

Vote no on I-124. We can do better together.

  
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'Safety' initiative aims to force hotels to unionize

About the Authors & Contributors

Carla Murray

Carla Murray is an executive with Starwood Hotels & Resorts and a community advocate.