Hotel employee safety is important, but Seattle Initiative 124 is a sloppy, possibly illegal approach to the problem.

Share story

IF the safety of Seattle hotel employees is a problem, the laws that protect them should be strengthened. Seattle ballot Initiative 124 is a sloppy, possibly illegal first draft that should be rejected by voters.

The union that represents Seattle hotel employees should have taken this idea to the City Council. City officials have been pulling together stakeholders on other labor issues, including the march toward a $15 minimum wage. A public process could have really improved this proposal.

The flaws in this initiative include:

• A process for informing hotel employees about a “problem” guest that could leave hotels open to lawsuits

• A confusing, privacy-invading requirement for employee health insurance

• An exemption for hotels whose employees are unionized: Why? That is clearly designed to do nothing more than encourage more union membership.

• Complicated rules concerning workloads that don’t have a clear connection with employee safety

The proposal has some good points that could be the starting point for a better law. They include a requirement to post a sign on the back of hotel doors about sexual-harassment laws, as well as panic buttons and rules prohibiting retaliation against employees who report harassment.

Sexual harassment is a problem in the workplace. More education, research and laws that encourage prevention are needed. Initiative 124 may increase awareness of the issue, but real work needs to be done to find legal language that would make a difference for workers. The labor groups that support Initiative 124 should sit down with government officials and the hotels that oppose the measure and hammer out a better law.