For immediate release
September 16, 2019
rgumpert [at] unitehere [dot] org
Turns Focus to Boston Hotel Under Strike for Refusing To Protect Workers From Sexual Assault
New York, NY – Today hospitality worker union UNITE HERE celebrates two major victories for women hotel workers in Miami Beach and Santa Monica, and is setting its sights on a hotel under strike in Boston as the next major frontier in the union’s international fight against workplace sexual assault.
On September 15, an ordinance passed in Miami Beach, Florida with the backing of UNITE HERE Local 355 went into effect, covering thousands of hotel workers across the city with life-changing protections, including panic buttons. Shortly before yesterday’s implemetation of the Miami Beach ordinance, UNITE HERE Local 11 workers succeeded in passing a measure to protect against the risk of sexual assault and other threatening conduct covering 2,100 hotel workers in Santa Monica, California. In a dramatic Council meeting ending at 2 AM local time, dozens of female hotel housekeepers packed the building and shared harrowing stories about why they needed the ordinance’s protections. The Santa Monica ordinance includes a requirement that hotels provide housekeepers with panic buttons and other protections against the risk of sexual assault and other threatening conduct, as well as provisions for job security, fair compensation for workload, and training.
Both the Miami Beach and Santa Monica ordinances cover non-union hotels as well as UNITE HERE-represented union hotels. These victories come on the heels of groundbreaking statewide laws passed earlier this year in New Jersey and Illinois, and ordinances passed in municipalities like Seattle and Chicago in recent years.
With these recent victories in Miami Beach and Santa Monica, the next major frontier in UNITE HERE’s seven-year campaign to stamp out workplace abuse in hotels is the Battery Wharf hotel in Boston. Workers at Battery Wharf, part-owned and managed by Westmont Hospitality Group, walked out on strike over many serious issues including the hotel’s refusal to agree to provide any sexual assault protections for workers, including panic buttons or removal of guests who have sexually assaulted their employees. Battery Wharf is the only union hotel in Boston that does not have panic buttons and the other protections workers have called for, an untenable position in the age of #MeToo and on the heels of major employers including Marriott agreeing to national agreements on these protections. UNITE HERE Local 26 workers have been on strike at Battery Wharf since September 5 and are prepared to remain on strike until Battery Wharf agrees to a contract that keeps women safe from rape and assault.
The hotel and hospitality industry is routinely cited as one of the industries in America with the highest rates of sexual assault or harassment in the workplace. This is due in part to the isolated conditions of hotel housekeeping work, management resistance to taking action against guests that create unsafe and undignified environments, and unequal power dynamics between guests and hotel workers. UNITE HERE hotel and casino workers have been winning protections from workplace sexual assault and harassment for years in contracts and local laws.
UNITE HERE has over 300,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries in the U.S. and Canada.