CITY HALL — A proposed law would require Chicago hotels to give their workers a panic button in an effort to protect them from being sexually assaulted or harassed by guests.
Introduced by 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), the measure has the support of the Chicago Federation of Labor, whose representatives said at a City Hall news conference Tuesday that they frequently receive complaints from hotel workers who say they have been forced to endure sexual misconduct at work.
Fifty-eight percent of hotel workers surveyed last fall by Unite Here Local 1 reported having been sexually harassed by a guest. Forty-nine percent of hotel housekeepers reported that guests had exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door nude.
Estella, who declined to give her last name, said she had twice been accosted by a male guest twice in three months while working as a housekeeper. Once, a man allowed her to enter the room even though he was masturbating, she said.
The second time, the same man followed her to another room where she was working to ask her for a towel. When she brought it to him, he was naked, Estella said.
The panic button would summon hotel security, according to the measure.
Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association CEO Marc Gordon and American Hotel and Lodging Association CEO Katherine Lugar said in a statement they would work with the City Council "to ensure common-sense policies that empower employees, maintain the proper role of law enforcement and provide a safe working environment.”
There are protections and safeguards in place to help employees "feel safe on the job," Gordon and Lugar said.
"Our employees receive extensive training to protect themselves against harassment and other criminal activity, and are encouraged to notify their supervisors and management teams and law enforcement when appropriate," Gordon and Lugar said.
The measure would also require hotels to develop a policy to handle complaints from workers about guests and encourage workers to report misconduct without fear of retaliation or termination.
As part of the push to pass the measure, Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez and other male labor leaders recorded a video where they read complaints filed by female hotel workers.