Daily 49er

Ordinance proposed to protect hospitality industry workers rejected by city council

Hospitality leave city council chambers disappointed.

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

Cris Rivera, Staff Writer

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Personal stories given by hotel workers and supporters of the suggested ordinance to protect Long Beach hospitality workers failed to convince the Long Beach city council to approve the proposal Tuesday night.

The hospitality work and safety ordinance, proposed by councilmember Lena Gonzalez, includes regulations for physical labor by limiting the amount of floorspace workers are required to clean to only 4,000 square feet per day. Anything over the limit would be considered over-time and workers would be paid accordingly. The ordinance also addresses safety concerns for hotel workers by including panic buttons and a requirement to give notice to employees of a hotel guest who is an alleged or convicted sex offender.

Many speakers voiced their concern and support, particularly for immigrant women in the hotel industry.

“Tonight these brave men and women have stood up,” said Maria Elena Durazo, the vice president of labor union organization Unite Here!. “You have the power to tell these immigrant workers and their families that you are with them and that you are watching their back.”  

Katherine Conchada, the daughter of a hospitality worker, shared with the council her mother’s experience as a housekeeper who immigrated to the United States and was subsequently subject to harassment in the workplace.

“Every day she went to work in fear that she would be sexually harassed by her employer who made advances toward her,” said Conchada. “Safety in the workplace should not be a privilege, safety in the workplace should be a basic human right.”

While a majority of the public comments were in support of the ordinance, some, individuals raised concerns about the process so far.

“Nowhere did I find any data or evidence concerning the issue we are talking about, there’s no reference to assault, there’s no reference to safety issues or workplace injuries in Long Beach,”  said Long Beach resident Richard Hood.

Instead of approving to draft the ordinance, the council voted to draft a resolution that is more inclusive of other workers and is backed up with studies and data that support the need for the ordinance.

I’m not sure it’s something we can do in one fell swoop tonight,” said councilmember Al Austin. “I think there are a lot of unanswered questions here.”

The issue of hotel worker safety is not isolated to Long Beach. Ordinances with similar hotel worker safety and workload restrictions have been adopted or at least addressed in cities across the country including Seattle, Chicago and New York.

In November of last year, Seattle voters passed similar legislation to protect hotel workers with panic buttons and workload restrictions.

The next city council meeting will be on Oct. 3.

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