The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt hotel-worker protections meant to replace and improve on a voter-approved law that was struck down in court last year.
Like Initiative 124, which was invalidated because of the way the ballot measure was written, Monday’s ordinances restrict the area that workers can be made to clean in a day while requiring hotels to provide workers with emergency panic buttons, help them pay for health care and retain them during ownership changes.
Unlike I-124, the new ordinances include no provision requiring hotels to keep lists of guests accused of assaulting or harassing workers and to bar those guests in certain circumstances.
“This is a really a step forward in carrying out the will of the voters,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said.
Several hotel workers and union leaders urged the council to move ahead with the ordinances. Several hotel-industry representatives objected to aspects of the new requirements, which are scheduled to take effect next July in most cases.
“We are disappointed by the lack of progress that has been made over the past 11 weeks” of deliberations, the Seattle Hotel Association wrote in a letter to the council last Friday.
Drawn up by the Unite Here! Local 8 hotel-workers union, I-124 passed at the ballot in 2016 with 77 percent of the vote. Proponents said the law would protect a workforce of mostly immigrants and women of color from sexual assault and harassment while bettering their sometimes dangerous and grueling job conditions.
Hotel-owner associations almost immediately sued.
A King County Superior Court judge initially upheld the law but a state appeals-court panel nixed it last year. The panel said I-124, by including provisions unrelated to each other all together, violated a rule that says initiatives can cover only one subject.
The state Supreme Court agreed in May to at some point consider the case. But rather than wait on that result, Teresa Mosqueda in recent months advanced Monday’s ordinances.
Besides providing panic buttons and immediately responding when the buttons are used by workers, one ordinance says hotels must warn guests about Seattle’s protections, stop assigning workers to serve guests accused of assault or harassment, and refer assaulted and harassed workers to victim-advocacy programs, with time off.
A separate ordinance says large hotels can’t require workers to clean more than 4,500 square feet in an eight-hour work day, though workers can volunteer to surpass that limit at a special pay rate.
Another ordinance says large hotels must make minimum health-care payments ranging from $420 per month for a single worker to $1,260 for a worker with a spouse and one or more children.
Yet another ordinance says the new owner of a hotel must for 180 days hire from a list of workers employed by the previous owner.
“This legislation is mostly about the women … who’ve experienced harassment and injury in the workplace,” Mosqueda said.
Councilmember Abel Pacheco said that his mother cleaned hotels when he was a child and has undergone multiple hand and shoulder surgeries as a result. Pacheco sometimes helped her after school.
“I know how hard your job is and I know how important your well-being is,” he told hotel workers in the crowd at City Hall.
Hotels will be able to waive the ordinances related to workload, health care and retention when workers are covered by collective-bargaining agreements with alternative ways to accomplish the same goals.
The Seattle Hotel Association is concerned about the minimum health-care payments being based on cash amounts rather than “quality of care” and about how the council set the maximum amount of space for a worker to clean, a spokeswoman said.
The association also is concerned that the council, by including some ancillary hotel businesses as covered by the new requirements, such as some restaurants located in hotels, will hurt those businesses.
Council members said the legislation will apply only to larger businesses providing services related to a hotel’s purpose, along with restaurants and bars that can be entered through a hotel.
The requirement that hotels keep lists of guests accused of assault and harassment and sometimes bar those guests was perhaps the most controversial provision in I-124, drawing criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington in addition to hotel owners.