Panic button ordinance proposed to protect Chicago hotel workers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's hotel workers are sharing details of the safety threat they face on the job - and the city is listening to their complaints.

Chicago has milllions of visitors each year. Many stay in hotels, but some who work in hotels say at times they do not feel safe. A proposed ordinance would provide these workers with a device to protect them from the guests they serve.

"He opened the zipper and I say, 'wait, wait, wait, wait," a hotel worker named Yazmin told ABC7.

"He decided to give me a smack on rear end," another hotel worker, Roushaunda, said.

"He was nude totally nude," another hotel worker named Esthela said.

These women - who asked that we only use their first names - say their stories of sexual harassment at work are not uncommon. A survey by UNITE HERE Local 1 of women in the hotel and casino industry found 49 percent had a guest expose himself or open the door naked.

"We knew this was happening, but we had no idea just how widespread," said Sarah Lyons, UNITE HERE Local 1.

"This is an issue. It's an ongoing issue. It is occurring every day in the hospitality industry," Roushaunda said.

Surveillance video shows how a female hotel worker in Nebraska fought off a masked man several weeks ago. She was lucky and able to get to a phone afterward.

Some hotel workers in New York and DC wear panic buttons.

"Has this prevented things from escalating? Absolutely. We've had situations where we have had housekeepers go into a room start cleaning a room and someone come out of bathroom not wearing any clothes and they'll be blocked from leaving the room," said Marina Willis, of RF Technologies.

RF Technologies makes wireless devices that can be activated silently while alerting the facility's security.

"What we are trying to do is de-escalate the situation, not escalate the situations," Willis said.

The workers who spoke to ABC 7 hope a proposed Chicago ordinance that is being introduced Wednesday will allow for some type of panic button to get help quickly if need be.

"We need something. Something else. Something fast," Esthela said.

"I cry," Yazmin said. "I feel like I can't do anything else. How it is possible that one man come here and do what he want to do?"

RF Technologies also has these panic buttons in schools and hospitals for workers who may be in isolated areas and if they get into a bad situation need help fast.

Alderman Michele Harris plans to introduce the ordinance to city council on Wednesday.
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