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Press Release: Governor Murphy Signs Landmark Bill to Protect Hotel Workers from Assaults, Harassment

New Jersey Becomes First State to Require Panic Buttons for Hotel Workers

Trenton, NJ—Hundreds of hotel workers, union leaders, and elected officials gathered at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City today to witness the signing of a landmark bill requiring most hotels to equip employees with wearable panic buttons.

“We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “I am proud to sign panic button legislation that the working men and women of Unite-Here, Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo, Charlie Wowkanech, Senator Loretta Weinberg, and so many others have fought for to give hotel workers greater security and the ability to immediately call for help should they need it on the job.”

The portable safety device, known as a panic button, will allow hotel workers to alert security personnel if they feel they are in danger or in a compromising position while performing housekeeping duties. Today’s signing makes New Jersey the first state in the nation to have a law requiring hotels to provide employees with such devices.

Scheduled to go into effect in January, the law applies to all hotels in the state with more than 100 guest rooms and covers full- and part-time workers. 

Hotels that do not comply can be fined up to $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each additional violation, according to the legislation.

“The safety of women in the hospitality industry has been overlooked,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Unite-Here Local 54. “I’m proud that my state is the first to pass and sign into law real protections for housekeepers in the hotel industry.”

The harassment of hotel workers, especially housekeepers, has been a longstanding issue the hotel industry has struggled to address. Unite-Here Local 54, a union representing nearly one-third of casino and hospitality workers in Atlantic City, was a driving force behind this legislation, which will provide an additional measure of security for thousands of hotel workers throughout the state.

“Whenever I go into a room, I wonder what is going to happen,” said Miriam Ramos, a housekeeper at Bally’s in Atlantic City. “Most guests are nice and respectful, but every housekeeper I've met has either been sexually assaulted or harassed doing her job, or knows someone who has.

“I’m glad that the legislature and the governor are making it safer for us,” she added.

Assemblyman John Armato (D-2) introduced the Panic Button Bill in the Assembly in September. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-2) also sponsored the bill. Senators Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Linda Greenstein (D-14) proposed it in the Senate.

“The New Jersey State AFL-CIO thanks the sponsors of the Panic Button Bill for recognizing that hotel workers deserve to feel safe while on the job,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “We are proud to have lobbied on behalf of this important legislation, which will no doubt help create a safer working environment for all of New Jersey’s hotel workers.”

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The New Jersey AFL-CIO works tirelessly to improve the lives of working people. As a democratic, voluntary federation of 55 national and international labor unions, we represent more than one-million working men and women. Our work is anchored in making sure everyone who works for a living has family-supporting wages and benefits and the ability to retire with dignity.