Voters could decide on ‘panic button’ initiative to protect hotel workers from sexual assault

An initiative that would require Long Beach hotels to provide panic buttons for housekeeprs to protect them against sexual assault has gained enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

The initiative, called “Stand with Women Against Abuse,” would require that all city hotels with 50 rooms or more provide employees with the panic buttons free of charge as well as protections against retaliation for reporting assaults.

The group needed 27,462 signatures for a ballot initiative. They submitted more than 47,000 to the city last week, said Long Beach City Clerk Monique De La Garza.

The City Council has final authority and is expected to consider the matter Tuesday’s council meeting.

The Council has a few options. It could decide to place the initiative on the November ballot, reject the measure or adopt it as an ordinance, De La Garza said. It could also request a 30-day study to further explore the issue.

The Council last year voted 5-4 against implementing a similar initiative.

Proponents on Tuesday said the Council now has a “second chance” to protect women.

We are asking that Long Beach City Council does the right thing and listens to the voices of working women over the voices of hotel owners,” UNITE HERE Local 11 Organizing Director Lorena Lopez said in a statement. “Every day workers are denied these protections is another day women are put at risk. This cannot stand.”

The initiative has been opposed by the Long Beach Hospitality Alliance, made up of the city’s largest hotels, which questioned the signature-gathering process earlier this year.

The Hospitality Alliance has said that local hotels are safe and that only two assaults have been reported by hotel staff in recent years –  one incident was sexual battery of a female employee and the other was battery of a male security guard.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].