Machinists endorse I-124 to protect hotel housekeepers

SEATTLE — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 thinks Seattle hotel housekeepers shouldn’t be subjected to regular sexual harassment or forced to work strenuous jobs without adequate health care coverage.

i-124-seattle-protects-womenThe union’s District Council voted unanimously Sept. 13 to endorse Seattle city Initiative 124, which would extend union-negotiated protections against sexual harassment and inhumane workloads to housekeepers in non-union hotels, while also providing for more-affordable health care options.

I-124 will be on the November ballot in Seattle. Machinists living in the city should support it, IAM 751 Legislative Director Larry Brown said.

“All workers deserve a safe and healthy work environment, but hotel workers face unique issues in terms of workplace injuries and sexual harassment,” he said. “I-124 would be a huge step toward granting them security and dignity on the job.”

According to data compiled by Unite-HERE Local 8, the union for hotel and restaurant workers, Seattle hotel workers are 80 percent female and typically women of color – often immigrants.

The work they do is strenuous, involving lifting mattresses over and over. Hotel housekeepers nationally are among the most-often-injured workers in America – with injury rates higher than coal miners, and with some 95 percent of them reporting some kind of chronic pain from work-related injuries.

Yet surveys among workers at hotels statewide show that housekeepers are among the least-likely Washington state workers to have employer-provided health insurance.

Most disturbing, one 2008 report showed that 82 percent of hotel workers had reported being sexually harassed or abused by guests. A separate study showed that nearly all housekeepers had been the target of a guest’s unwanted sexual advance.

Local 8 reports that union hotel housekeepers can make up to $35,000 a year; the average at non-union hotels is $22,000.

yes124-logo“No one should have to work under these kinds of conditions,” Brown said. “As trade unionists, we have a responsibility to look out for our sisters, and to give them tools to help them take care of themselves.”

I-124 would:

  • Require hotels to provide panic buttons to housekeepers, post anti-harassment policies in all guest rooms and create a process for documenting sexual harassment and assault reports; hotels would be required to give workers advanced notice when known harassers return to the hotel, and could ban repeat offenders;
  • Require employers to either provide affordable family health insurance or pay workers extra so that they can purchase their own;
  • Put limits on either the number of rooms or total square footage housekeepers are required to clean in an eight-hour shift, thus reducing unsafe workloads and slowing down the pace of work to a more-safe level; and
  • Provide workers with rights to keep their jobs when their hotels are sold or placed under new management.

I-124 has been endorsed by a number of Puget Sound-area unions, including the Teamsters, Office and Professional Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers and Service Employees International, along with the Martin Luther King County Labor Council.

“This is the kind of legislation that unions should be pursuing,” said IAM 751 President Jon Holden. “I-124 would provide vulnerable workers with protection against exploitation. We are proud to be supporters of this measure, and I encourage all Seattle residents to vote for it.”

Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 32,000 working men and women at 53 employers across Washington and California.

To learn more about the Yes on I-124 campaign, go online to www.SeattleProtectsWomen.org

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