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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 16, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 24
Court upholds I-124

Victory for hotel workers
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Court upholds I-124

Victory for hotel workers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A King County Superior Court ruled on June 9 that I-124 - the Seattle initiative that protects hotel workers from sexual harassment and other unsafe working conditions - is constitutional.

Judge John Erlick affirmed the initiative in its entirety and dismissed the claims of hotel industry attorneys.

In his decision, Erlick wrote that 'the Initiative and Ordinance do not violate the federal or Washington State Constitutions, are not inconsistent with or preempted by existing law, and that plaintiffs Associations [sic] lack the requisite standing for a facial constitutional challenge.'

The initiative, titled 'the Seattle Hotel Employee Health and Safety Initiative,' was passed overwhelmingly with a 77% yes vote in the November 8, 2016, election. I-124 contains new rights and protections for hotel workers, including panic buttons, workload limits for housekeepers, expanded access to affordable family health insurance, and job security.

Shortly after it passed, the Seattle Hotel Association, Washington Hospitality Association, and American Hotel and Lodging Association filed suit to block the law.

The City of Seattle, Seattle Protects Women, and UNITE HERE Local 8 - the union that represents hotel and restaurant workers in the Pacific Northwest - also went to court to uphold the new ordinance.

'In going after I-124, the hotel industry showed a clear disrespect and disregard for both hotel workers and Seattle voters,' said UNITE HERE Local 8 President Erik Van Rossum.

'We are very pleased but not surprised that the court has sided with all of us in Seattle who know that protecting hotel housekeepers from harassment and injury is both legal and necessary.'

'We needed this initiative,' said Yan Deng, a lobby attendant and former housekeeper at a Seattle hotel. 'I am so happy that it will continue to be in place and that the hotels will have no excuse now not to follow the law.'

A majority of Seattle hotel workers are immigrants and people of color, and over 80% of hotel housekeepers are women.

One of the controversial parts of the initiative is the provision requiring hotels to bar patrons who sexually harass hotel staff. Industry attorneys claimed that rule violated their guests' privacy and due process rights.

In his ruling, Erlick said the hotel groups lacked standing to sue over that provision. That challenge would be 'more properly brought' by a guest actually barred, rather than by hotel groups before the fact, the judge said.

The judge added that issues relating to accused guests and their rights may be addressed by rules the City draws up to implement I-124.

Brian Crawford, vice president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said the plaintiffs will consider next steps, such as an appeal.

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