Labor Press June 2011
Assemblyman Rory Lancman
Chair, Subcommittee on Workplace Safety
New York Hotel Workers: We are With You
The recent alleged sexual assaults against hotel housekeepers by International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Egyptian businessman Mahmoud Abdel-Salem Omar have drawn increased attention to a serious safety problem for workers in hotel services.
These are but two examples of the kinds of inappropriate conduct which hotel housekeepers–the vast majority of whom are women–are all too often subjected to. Indeed, as described in a recent article by the workplace reporter for the New York Times, Steven Greenhouse, “sexual affronts are a known hotel hazard.”
The Hotel Worker Protection Act, which I am sponsoring with Senator Martin Golden, would require hotel and motel employers in New York State to provide personal panic buttons to each room attendant and room service worker, alerting management the moment the button is pushed of a dangerous situation requiring immediate attention. Notification devices would give hotel employees the sense of never being alone and having immediate access to help if necessary. The legislation is supported by the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, a member of AFL-CIO, which represents nearly thirty thousand hotel and motel workers in New York state. (Here is a link to the press conference announcing the legislation).
In response to this legislation, both the Sofitel and Pierre hotels – where the above referenced attacks occurred – have agreed to install panic alert systems and provide their staff with panic buttons. Other hotels should follow suit voluntarily, rather than wait for legislation directing them to do so, and rather than wait for another hotel worker to be assaulted for lack of a means to call for help.