Workplace safety

LA Advances Hotel Worker Protections That Include ‘Panic Button' Devices

Hotel workers could be provided with personal-security devices to protect them from threatening hotel guests

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The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday tentatively adopted an ordinance that would require hotels to provide workers with personal-security devices to protect them from violent or threatening hotel guests while also extending minimum wage requirements to smaller hotels.

The proposal, which came to the council thanks to a petition drive that collected more than 100,000 signatures, was approved on a 10-3 vote, with Councilmen Joe Buscaino, Paul Krekorian and John Lee dissenting.

Since the vote was not unanimous, the issue will return to the council next week for a final vote.

The “Workplace Security, Workload, Wage and Retention Measures for Hotel Workers” measure would require hotels to supply their workers with personal security “panic button” devices.

Hotels with more than 45 rooms would also have to pay wage premiums when giving workloads that exceed specified limits and to get written consent from workers who work more than 10 hours a day. Exemptions would be given to hotels that demonstrate economic hardship.

The proposed ordinance would also extend the current minimum wage requirements that apply to hotels with 150 or more rooms to hotels with 60 rooms or more.

The council on Tuesday had the option of either adopting the proposal outright, or submitting it to voters at the next citywide election.

Lee asked his colleagues to send the matter to the ballot, saying he was uncomfortable with quickly approving a measure “that doesn't provide any type of independent economic analysis” and might have an impact on the city's transient-occupancy tax revenues. He said such matters “should be decided by a vote of the electorate, not by just turning in signatures.”

The majority of the council, however, disagreed. Councilman Kevin de Leon talked about his mother's work in the hotel industry as he pushed his colleagues to approve the measure.

He called hotel workers “the backbone of our economy in the city of Los Angeles,” noting that many of them are immigrants, people of color and women.

“I know what this job does to people,” he said. “I know what it did to my mother, and I want to make sure that workers like her are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”

Union members with Unite Here Local 11, who supported the petition drive, packed the council chamber and cheered with approval after de Leon's remarks, breaking into a chant of “sí se puede.”

Similar hotel worker protections have already been approved in cities such as Long Beach, West Hollywood and Santa Monica.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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