For immediate release
October 11, 2017
Ordinance will help ensure hotel workers have panic buttons and other safety measures to protect against sexual violence by guests
(CHICAGO, IL)—Today, the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to pass the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance to protect Chicago hotel workers, the majority of whom are women of color and immigrants, from sexual harassment and assault. As stories surface that Hollywood film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein allegedly harassed and sexually assaulted several women for decades, this city ordinance now leads the national conversation in a hopeful direction.
“This is a significant step forward in the fight against sexual harassment and assault in the workplace,” said Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez. “Unfortunately, it is a step in only one industry. As we have seen in our national news, there is more work to be done to protect workers across all industries. Every day, the labor movement fights for every worker’s right to a safe and secure work environment. The CFL and our affiliated unions are committed to continuing the fight against sexual harassment and abuse in all industries. I hope other cities follow suit and look at ways to help keep their workers safe.”
The Chicago Federation of Labor and UNITE HERE Local 1 worked with 8th Ward Alderman Michelle Harris to develop the language for the ordinance. The ordinance covers all Chicago hotel workers, both union and non-union, requiring hotels to provide panic buttons to anyone who works alone in guest rooms and restrooms. The ordinance also protects hotel workers from retaliation when they report sexual violence by guests and mandates hotels to implement an anti-sexual harassment policy.
“This is a historic day for our union, for women working in Chicago hotels, and for our City,” said Karen Kent, President of UNITE HERE Local 1. “With this vote to approve the ‘Hands Off Pants On’ ordinance, Chicago will be known not only for world-class hospitality, but also as a place that supports women who speak out about sexual harassment and assault. This law will protect thousands of immigrants and women of color who form the backbone of the hospitality industry, making Chicago a leader in the fight against workplace sexual violence. As the news emerges out of Hollywood, I hope that what we have accomplished here in Chicago empowers more women to break the ‘Sisterhood of Silence’ and come forward.”
Alderman Harris introduced the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance in April 2017 after a survey of 487 women working in Chicagoland hotels and casinos revealed wide-spread sexual harassment by hotel guests. The survey findings were published in a report by UNITE HERE Local 1 in October 2016. The survey found:
- 58 percent of hotel workers surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by a guest.
- 49 percent of hotel housekeepers surveyed said guests had exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door naked.
“I’m proud and humbled to have helped make this ordinance a reality today,” stated Alderman Harris. “These workers are our friends and neighbors and deserve to feel safe at their jobs.”
Cecilia, a Chicago hotel worker, added, “It can be hard to speak out about sexual harassment. I’m so happy that the City of Chicago is listening and standing up for women like me. Knowing I will have a panic button and that I can call for help brings a huge sense of relief. I can’t wait to go back to work and share the news that the City of Chicago has our backs!”
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The Chicago Federation of Labor is the third‐largest central labor council of the AFL‐CIO in the United States representing approximately 300 local unions comprised of over half a million union members in Chicago and Cook County.
UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 15,000 hospitality and food service workers in the City of Chicago and surrounding area.