Citizens' Guide to Seattle’s Initiative 124: Imposing restrictive new wage, workload and hiring regulations on hotel employers in Seattle

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
POLICY BRIEF
|
Oct 11, 2016

Download the Citizens' Guide to Seattle’s Initiative 124 

Key Findings

  • Initiative 124 would impose an expansive new set of labor standards on certain hotel employers operating in the city of Seattle.

  • The labor unions supporting Initiative 124 say it is about protecting hotel workers with mandates. However, the controversial, and unprecedented, measure also includes a variety of union-style labor standards that have nothing to do with the safety of hotel workers.

  • Hotel employers would be responsible for prevention, in-house reports, and the refusal of service to alleged perpetrators. In essence, they would become de facto law enforcement. Employers would be forced to ban guests based on the unsubstantiated claims of workers.

  • Initiative 124 would set new limits on how many square feet and the number of rooms hotel workers could clean in a shift, unless the worker is paid time and a half. If a hotel employer is willing to pay a higher wage, then it is okay for workers to clean beyond the limits specified in the measure as safe.

  • Initiative 124 would require “large hotels” to provide “low-wage” employees with a specified level of health benefits or pay a minimum monthly stipend of $200. Initiative 124 would significantly expand the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.

  • Under Initiative 124, if a hotel changes ownership, the new hotel employer would be required to give employees of the outgoing hotel first priority for employment. New hotel employers could not hire any workers off the street, or even transfer their own workers from another location for the first six months of operation.

  • Hotel employers whose workers are unionized would be exempt from the burdensome provisions of Initiative 124.

  • Hotel employers must maintain detailed records for each worker currently employed and for each former worker. The records must include each workers’ hourly rate of pay for each work week; the amount of any additional wages paid to off set the cost of health insurance each month; and, the total square footage of guest rooms cleaned, the number of “strenuous room cleanings,” the number of hours worked, and the employee’s gross pay, on a daily basis. The employer must keep these records for at least three years.

  • Initiative 124 would single out hotel employers for compliance with a restrictive set of one-size-fits-all labor regulations that appear to have little to do with protecting the health and safety of hotel workers. Instead, the measure benefits the UNITE HERE Local 8 union that drafted and sponsored the measure. 

Introduction

This fall, voters in Seattle will decide whether to accept the union-drafted Initiative 124, called the Seattle Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative, to impose an expansive set of new work restrictions on certain hotel employers operating in the city.

The labor unions supporting Initiative 124 say the measure is about protecting the health and safety of hotel workers with mandates that would implement new worker restrictions and limit how many rooms housekeepers can clean during a shift.

However, the controversial, and unprecedented, measure also includes a variety of labor standards that have nothing to do with safety in Seattle hotels. Instead, the measure seeks to use the broad restrictions in Initiative 124 to incentivize hotels to become unionized so they could take advantage of the measure’s union exemption from the burdensome regulations.

These broad restrictions include union-style mandates ranging from forcing new hotel businesses to hire certain workers, to requiring certain hotel employers to pay extra wages if they do not provide a specified level of health insurance bene ts.

Undermining supporters’ claims that Initiative 124 would protect the health and safety of hotel workers is the provision that exempts unionized employers from the regulations, except the rules about harassment and assault. Also undermining the measure is the provision that would allow workers to violate certain “safety” rules in exchange for higher pay.

For these reasons the unions sponsoring Initiative 124 appear hypocritical because they would not be covered by their own proposal.

This Citizens Guide summarizes the provisions of Initiative 124 and describes why the one-size-fits-all regulations it would mandate are over-reaching, unnecessary and would ultimately harm hotel workers, hotel guests and hotel employers. 

Download the Citizens' Guide to Seattle’s Initiative 124