Wearable “safety buttons” aim to protect Las Vegas hotel housekeepers

LAS VEGAS — For 21 years, Leida Aguinaldo worked in one of the MGM properties on the Strip as a housekeeper. She says thanks to this work, she was able to give her children a decent life, medical insurance and even send them to college.

“Mahirap talaga po lalo na pag sa gabi kung hindi maingat kase siempre yung pinag tatrabahuhan ko is 4250 rooms minsan dalawa apat lang kaming housekeepers.”

But through the years, as she swept and scrubbed, fluffed and folded, she sometimes felt a lurking threat—and in one instance, she recalls an indecent proposal from a patron.

“Isang beses nga may isang guest na pinapunta nila ako dun. Sabe ko sir your room is ok. Anything I can do just straighten my bed nakita ko yung bed niya straight naman, he said there’s a 2 dollars tip for you, but you can do more I will give you 20. So yung sinabe
Nyang ganun dali dali akong umalis tapos sinabe ko kaagad sa boss ko.”

Leida says she was shaken to the core by the incident. That’s why she wishes that an ordinance for safety buttons already existed during her time.

Contract negotiations for 50,000 food and hospitality workers on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown are already in negotiation for safety buttons — wireless devices that housekeepers can wear.

Pressing the button notifies hotel management that the housekeeper is in danger.

The Culinary Union of Southern Nevada declined to release data on how many housekeepers have faced threatening situations in Vegas hotels in recent years.

But Clark County court records show that housekeepers have indeed been brutally attacked in the past.

In 2011, a 65 year old maid was assaulted by a 19 year old man. She was punched in the face and sexually assaulted.

In 2016 a 22 year old man sexually assaulted a maid cleaning the bathroom in the Boulder Station casinos. The maid yelled for help but the man attacked her harder.

“This is a real problem for workers in Nevada and across the country, and Congress has a responsibility to take a leading role in putting an end to workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Requiring public companies to report these settlements will help lead to greater transparency, safer work environments, and a more robust discussion of how to prevent workplace misconduct and hold people in power accountable.”

Nevada Congresswoman Jacky Rosen wants to shed more light on the topic, and is calling for more transparency from the state’s public companies, through a bill that would require them to disclose sexual harassment and discrimination settlements under the Sunlight
In Workplace Harassment Act.

It’s a move that could build the case for safety buttons for hospitality workers.

“Definitely that will give them the advantage especially of the perpetrator has the element of surprise that would give our kababayans who are working in the casino industry an edge,” says Sheila Morales Solis.

With 14,000 guest room attendants working in the local hotel industry, some of the casinos on the Strip are working with their union partners to develop programs that explore how technology can enhance safety for them all.

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