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Hotel Workers Rally for Santa Monica Panic Button Ordinance
By Jorge Casuso
June 19, 2019 -- The local hotel workers union on Tuesday staged the first in a series of rallies leading up to the Santa Monica City Council's vote on a panic button ordinance this fall.
Two members of the Council, which is expected to vote on the ordinance in August, addressed the crowd that included hotel workers, clergy and civic leaders gathered in front of City Hall.
“You’re all members of our community and if one struggles, we all struggle, together,” Councilmember Greg Morena told the crowd.
In her address, Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said, “This hotel industry was built on the backs of workers and they deserve to live with dignity and respect.”
The proposed ordinance -- unanimously backed by the Council in October -- would require local hotels to install "panic buttons" in all guest rooms.
It also would protect hotel workers from "unreasonable workloads" and provide comprehensive education and training for supervisors and staff.
“This policy makes me feel like a part of this community and seen by this city," said Aurelia Gonzalez, who has worked as a housekeeper at the JW Marriott Le Merigot for 18 years.
At the meeting, City Manager Rick Cole said that the issue was too complex to rush and cautioned that the City was "not set up yet to enforce those kinds of rules."
At Tuesday's rally, opponents of the proposed measure displayed a banner calling Unite HERE Local 11 "California's worst labor union."
Bozzello said Council members "are doing workers a disservice" by failing to provide research on "the unintended consequences" of the union-backed law.
Last month, a report prepared for the Hotel Association of Los Angeles found the proposed law could hurt the housekeepers it intends to help and deal a blow to Santa Monica's thriving hotel industry ("Proposed Santa Monica Law to Protect Hotel Housekeepers Could Backfire, Report Says," May 21, 2019).
In 2015, a female employee of the hotel told the California Coastal Commission what the head of security at the time had told the housekeepers during an orientation training.
“If we were about to be sexually assaulted," the worker said he told them, "the best course of action would be to defecate ourselves in order to avoid it, so we’d become so disgusting that no man would want to touch us.”
Three weeks later, union officials said, the Shore Hotel fired her.
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