Union-backed hotel safety ordinance poses danger to Long Beach: Guest commentary

The City of Long Beach, following behind Seattle, is set to impose multiple worker safety requirements on hotels. The City of Long Beach ordinance would affect hotels with 100 rooms or more and limit housekeeper workloads to cleaning 4,000 square feet per day. Although it provides for other safety features as well, many hotels in the area have already implemented panic buttons for housekeepers, which the bill is also including. The measure would inflict hoteliers with needless cost that may ultimately hurt the workers and blacklist guests. The ordinance will be heard by council Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Press-Telegram, Sandy Cajas, outlines the key points surrounding the ordinance.


A 2015 file photo shows a person in Long Beach walking past protest signs created by UNITE HERE. The labor group is promoting a Long Beach ordinance it says would promote safety for hotel workers. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Southern California News Group)


Safety in the workplace is an issue that the Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce takes very seriously. Every employee should be safe, and we support programs that better protect workers.

This is why we are concerned about proposed legislation in the city of Long Beach that is being marketed as a safety ordinance but will only threaten jobs and diminish people’s rights. The ordinance, on the Long Beach City Council agenda Tuesday, Sept. 19, would impose unnecessary and costly mandates on hotels, which will inject tumult into a vital industry to our community.

The group promoting this ordinance, called UNITE HERE, argues that hotels with 100 rooms or more should help to protect maids by providing them with “panic buttons.” There is no dispute on this issue from us. In fact, all of these hotels in Long Beach already have installed panic buttons.

So why is the ordinance needed? Why focus only on those hotels with these safety measures already in place?

If this issue were truly about safety in the workplace, there would be no need for this ordinance. These hotels have not only installed panic buttons but, over the past 18 months, have also mandated training programs for their employees to improve workplace safety on all fronts. Hotel employees are trained in how to respond to sexual assault, use self-defense and identify human trafficking. These programs should be commended as a model for hotels and other employers to adopt across the state.

So it is disappointing to see UNITE HERE using the guise of safety to push its real agenda. Read the fine print, and you will find the ordinance not only mandates panic buttons but also establishes unnecessary and self-defeating regulations that essentially pit hotel guests against employees.

Forcing hotels into the wholly unnecessary trade-off between the safety of their guests and the safety of their employees, the ordinance would create a blacklist of all guests accused of sexual harassment.

As the proposed process currently stands, the blacklisting of guests would take place without law enforcement being contacted or consulted, without any investigation and finding on the matter by the appropriate authorities. It would violate the constitutional rights of guests, needlessly damage reputations and put hoteliers at risk of costly civil lawsuits.

Before it makes a decision, we urge the Long Beach City Council to look past the sensationalist marketing and consider a few questions: If this ordinance is to ensure safety, then why does it apply only to hotels with more than 100 rooms, leaving out other hotels and motels? Why focus these onerous requirements on the hotels that have already proven their commitment to workplace safety?

Long Beach hotels are an integral part of the local economy. Last year, the hospitality industry paid $26 million in the Transient Occupancy Tax and half of the tax is paid directly into the city’s General Fund, which funds vital services such as police, fire and park maintenance. This ordinance would adversely affect our hotels, potentially costing them millions of dollars, which threatens to harm our local economy.

This ordinance will not further that cause or encourage other employers to also adopt strong safety training programs for their employees. Rather, this ordinance is a power play and, if successful, only harms the local economy, businesses, employees and guests. It is not worth it.

We encourage the Long Beach City Council to reject this ordinance so that we can move forward with positive and productive programs that actually improve safety and create opportunity for every resident and visitor of Long Beach.

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