Washington’s highest court will hear a case about a voter-approved Seattle law that gave new rights to hotel workers but was struck down last year as the result of a lawsuit brought by hotel-owner associations.
The state Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider Initiative 124, which won broad support at the ballot in 2016 and inspired similar measures in cities such as Chicago and Oakland. The court granted petitions for review submitted by the city and the Unite Here! Local 8 hotel-workers union, and it could take up the case as early as later this year.
“Nearly 77 percent of Seattle voters spoke clearly when they approved this initiative,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. “My team looks forward to defending this law.”
“Initiative 124 had several challenges, and we’re committed to identifying solutions to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for our employees,” the Seattle Hotel Association said in a statement. “(The association) believes the Supreme Court will agree with the Court of Appeals.”
Drawn up by Local 8, I-124 required hotels to provide workers with emergency panic buttons, keep lists of guests accused of assaulting or harassing workers and bar those guests in certain circumstances.
Proponents said it would protect a workforce of mostly immigrants and women of color from sexual assault and harassment.
The law also required hotels to safeguard workers from injuries, limit them to 5,000 square feet of cleaning each day, provide them with health-care coverage or subsidies and retain them as employees during ownership changes. The provisions not related to assault and harassment could be waived in collective-bargaining agreements.
But last December, an appeals-court panel struck down the law. The three-judge panel said the 2016 ballot measure, by including provisions unrelated to each other, violated a rule that says initiatives put before voters can cover only one subject.
The law’s supporters turned to the Supreme Court in January, arguing the various provisions in the ballot measure were all related to the well-being of hotel workers.
For now, Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards is accepting complaints about violations of I-124 but isn’t taking enforcement actions. If the Supreme Court reinstates the law, the office intends to take enforcement actions retroactively. The Seattle Hotel Association has advised its members to continue adhering to I-124, pending a Supreme Court ruling.
City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda isn’t waiting for the outcome of the case to take another look at hotel working conditions. The council could pass legislation that would protect hotel workers while improving on I-124, she said Wednesday.
The state Legislature last month passed legislation requiring hotels across Washington to provide their workers with panic buttons.