The Long Beach City Council narrowly voted 5 to 4 on October 10 to adopt a resolution supporting safety protections for workers in the hospitality industry. This action came after the council voted down a proposal at its September 19 meeting to create an ordinance enforcing certain safety measures and new labor rules at area hotels.
At the September meeting, 8th District Councilmember Al Austin made a substitute motion to create a resolution in place of the ordinance. The ordinance would have required hotels to provide room cleaners with panic buttons, notify employees of any sexual offenders staying as guests and put signs in rooms reminding guests of workers’ right to remain free of harassment. It also set forth regulations concerning workloads, such as limiting the square footage hotel management could allow workers to clean in a certain period of time and requiring that overtime be voluntary.
“I don’t know whether the community wanted to accept a resolution rather than some direct action,” Vice Mayor Rex Richardson told the Business Journal. “I’m a father of two daughters. Women’s rights are incredibly important. I know the difference between a political gesture of a resolution and a real action to protect families.”
Councilmembers Jeannine Pearce, Lena Gonzalez and and Roberto Uranga joined 9th District Councilmember Richardson in his dissent of the resolution. These same councilmembers voted in favor of the September ordinance proposal, of which Gonzalez was the primary author.
“We had hundreds of people here at another meeting to discuss these issues. Lots of men and women spoke about their experiences with sexual assault and unfortunately, they fell on deaf ears,” 1st District Councilmember Lena Gonzalez said at the meeting.
Opponents of the measure argued that it was an attempt to force hotels to unionize under the guise of protecting workers’ rights, since it applied only to hotels that did not have “a bona fide collective bargaining agreement” with “equivalent protections,” according to the council agenda item.
“This isn’t rhetoric, this is women’s lives,” Pearce said. “It’s not about the union. I would ask the industry to take a hard look at panic buttons that connect directly to security guards, not whistles, not noisemakers.”
Pearce served eight years as a former senior organizer for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), an organization that pushed the city to adopt safety and workplace regulations for the hospitality industry. Labor union UNITE HERE Local 11 also supported the ordinance.
Fifth District Councilmember Stacy Mungo said that, while she appreciated her colleague’s perspective on panic buttons, she “respectfully disagrees” with imposing directives on hotels.
“I have a family member who’s been attacked and pushed a button and nobody came, so I appreciate your continued advocacy for it,” she said. “But I will continue to advocate for people working in pairs and for our public safety committee to not only look at one industry.”
Richardson told the Business Journal that he didn’t think it was the right gesture to support the resolution since it had so much “political angst” associated with it.
“When resolutions come to city hall, they’re intended to build people up, make them feel appreciated and recognized by the city,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ve identified the right solution yet, but the resolution wasn’t it.”