Major Hotels Agree to Provide Staff with Panic Buttons to Fight Harassment

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Major hotel chains including Marriott International Inc and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. said on Thursday they are arming U.S. employees with panic buttons to fight sexual harassment and crime, an about-face for an industry that has opposed the idea for years.

Workers in the hotel industry are frequent targets of sexual harassment as they are often alone with guests in their rooms. Unions and other advocates have increased pressure on hotels to provide the devices over the last year in the wake of the #MeToo social media movement and the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting, where the gunman opened fire from his hotel window.
“Protecting our employees and millions of people who want to stay in our hotel every day is of great importance to the industry,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, in an interview with journalists at an industry event in Washington.

He said devices will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and will affect tens of thousands of workers expected to happen in the next few years.

The executives at Marriott and Hilton pledged to present their devices to employees in all the US halls by 2020.

Authorities at InterContinental Hotels Group Plc and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Inc said they are working on plans to deliver the devices to their owned and managed hotels over the next two years and are working on franchise owner guidelines. Hyatt Hotels Corp. said it has devices in 120 Hyatt hotels in North and South America and plans to standardize them in managed and franchised hotels.

According to STR Inc, which monitors the hotel industry, these five brands make up 45 percent of all hotel rooms in America.

According to an analysis by the left-leaning American Progress Center last year, the hotel and restaurant industry accounts for more than 14 percent of sexual harassment complaints at the highest level of any industry with the US Equal Opportunity Commission between 2005 and 2015.
Earlier this year, a group of Ms. Marriott workers demanded better protection from sexual harassment at the company’s annual meeting, including panic buttons.

Taylor, chairman of the hospitality workers’ union, who pioneered many work on panic buttons, praised what the hotel industry called “a delayed first step”.

He also added that he hopes the industry will invest in appropriate technology to ensure the safety of workers.

Taylor said, “You should invest not only in words, but in your capital, to make sure your work power is safe.”

Hospitality workers union members, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas and Miami Beach, Florida, in recent years, including a few cities in the United States required the use of devices.

Union hotel workers in New York City have similar equipment since 2012, when a hotel service was exposed to sexual assault by IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a former New York hotel in 2011.

Dallamy Santos has been working as a cleaner and guard at a casino in Las Vegas for nearly two decades.

A few years ago, when he offered his money for sex, a man was cleaning the guest room. In another way, a male guest left a pornographic movie on television and disturbed him. In either case, he said he had escaped from the room without knowing what else to do.

“At that moment you do not feel safe; Santos, you do not see this person as a guest, he said. “You do not want to worry about where you’ll get help.”

In Thursday’s event, Marriott’s Chief Executive Arne Sorenson prepared a device that resembled a thin black box with a red button. He said he usually includes a GPS system to signal security or hotel management. Others said that in the event, there are options for the devices to sound loud.

According to a survey conducted by the Industrial Union, Unite Here, a survey of approximately 500 Chicago-based women’s hospitable laborers found that 58 percent of the hotel industry and 77 percent of the gambling industry were sexually harassed by guests. Common complaints included guests who directed themselves to the cleaning staff or to the room.

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