Ordinance to Protect Chicago Hotel Workers from Sexual Harassment and Assault Passes the Committee on Workforce Development, Advances to full City Council

Nora Cay Ryan                                                                              Sarah Lyons
Chicago Federation of Labor                                                     UNITE HERE Local 1
847‐826‐2061                                                                                312-385-0603
ncryan@chicagolabor.org                                                          slyons@unitehere.org

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2017

Ordinance to Protect Chicago Hotel Workers from Sexual Harassment and Assault Passes the Committee on Workforce Development, Advances to full City Council

Ordinance will help ensure hotel workers have panic buttons and other safety measures to protect against sexual violence by guests

(CHICAGO, IL) Today, the Committee on Workforce Development, chaired by 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor, recommended approval of the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance to protect Chicago hotel workers, the majority of whom are women of color and immigrants, from sexual harassment and assault. With the Committee’s recommendation for approval, the ordinance will advance to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

The Chicago Federation of Labor and UNITE HERE Local 1 worked with Alderman Harris to develop the ordinance. The ordinance covers all Chicago hotel workers, whether union or non-union, and requires hotels to provide panic buttons to housekeepers and other hotel workers who work alone in guest rooms and restrooms. The ordinance also protects hotel workers from retaliation when they report sexual violence by guests and requires hotels to implement an anti-sexual harassment policy.

Alderman Harris introduced the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance in April 2017 after a survey of 487 women working in Chicagoland hotels and casinos revealed wide-spread sexual harassment by hotel guests. The survey findings were published in a report[i] by UNITE HERE Local 1 in October 2016. The survey found:

  • 58 percent of hotel workers surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by a guest.
  • 49 percent of hotel housekeepers surveyed said guests had exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door naked.

The following quotes were included in today’s testimony.

“No one should ever have to know what this kind of abuse feels like. Unfortunately, these issues are not confined to this industry; it happens to women across all industries. Every day, the labor movement fights for dignity and respect in the workplace, and we fight for every worker’s right to a safe and secure work environment. The CFL is here today to stand with hotel workers and to let this committee know that we are committed to fighting sexual harassment and abuse in all industries.”
–        Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor

“I’m proud and humbled to have helped make this ordinance a reality today. These workers are our friends and neighbors and deserve to feel safe at their jobs.”
–        Alderman Michelle Harris, 8th Ward

“Having a panic button would make me feel safer. To know I can easily call for help if something happens would be such a relief. I’m here today not just for myself but for my co-workers. We deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe at work.”
–        Cecilia, a Chicago hotel worker

“Today’s advancement of the ‘Hands Off Pants On’ ordinance brings us one step closer to breaking the silence, shame and stigma around sexual violence in the workplace. The ordinance creates urgently needed protections for Chicago hotel workers; for the immigrants, the women of color, the people who clean, cook, and serve for our city every day.”
–        Karen Kent, President of UNITE HERE Local 1, the hospitality workers union

“While progress has been made, thanks to the work of courageous survivors and the determined advocacy of groups like Women Employed, sexual harassment continues to be a barrier to women’s economic advancement. In the case of those women doing low-wage work, the stakes are often higher, leaving them particularly vulnerable and forcing them to choose between their families’ livelihoods and their safety, health and dignity. It’s a choice no worker should have to make.”
–        Sharmili Majmudar, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Women Employed

# # #

The Chicago Federation of Labor is the third‐largest central labor council of the AFL‐CIO in the United States representing approximately 300 local unions comprised of over half a million union members in Chicago and Cook County.

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents over 15,000 hospitality and food service workers in the City of Chicago and surrounding area.

Founded in 1973, Women Employed’s mission is to improve women’s economic status and remove barriers to economic equity.