The West Hollywood City Council on Aug. 2 approved on second reading the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance, which establishes certain additional protections for hotel workers in the city.
The ordinance provides the “right to recall” to employees laid-off due to catastrophic events (such as COVID-19); requires hotels to provide personal security devices (sometimes known as panic buttons); sets standards for workloads and compensation; and requires hotels to provide public housekeeping training.
S.O.S. WeHo, a coalition of businesses, workers and concerned citizens, denounced the passage of the controversial ordinance. Critics argue that the city was unable to provide any statistical evidence based in West Hollywood to support the measure, and that a council majority unilaterally rejected multiple calls for study and stymied public requests for information.
“We are extremely disappointed by the council’s decision to rush this unnecessary hotel ordinance without even studying its impacts,” said Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “Paraded as worker safety, the council’s decision will actually hurt workers at a time when families need money most to support their families as the pandemic continues. In fact, most of our hotels stayed open throughout all of 2020 to serve emergency workers, and then took extraordinary efforts to bring all of their employees back before many other hotels in other cities. So, we punish them now as bad employers? Where is the proof?”
Opponents of the law assert that it is a special interest legislation disguised as a safety measure whose true intent is to induce hotel unionization through excessively punitive measures.
The measures include converting entire shifts to double time pay in the event that workload restrictions are exceeded, as well as requiring permission slips seven days in advance by employees if they wish to work more than two hours of overtime in one shift, coalition representatives stated.
None of the above measures exist in any federal or state labor law in the country, and union hotels are exempt regardless of whether they are included in their bargaining agreement, according to the coalition. Workers can expect to see their incomes drop by as much as 30% with the loss of voluntary overtime wages and gratuities, opponents said.
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