New York City Hotels Will Give Panic Buttons to Staff

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New York City hotel operators have agreed to a contract with the city's hotel union that gives housekeepers and other hotel employees personal panic buttons to notify security if they run into trouble in a guest's room. While neither hotel owners nor union officials are admitting a link between the new devices and the alleged sexual assault of a Sofitel housekeeper by former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (charges that were ultimately dismissed), on Twitter The New York Times is already referring to them as the "so-called DSK buttons."

As for the buttons themselves, Patrick McGeehan writes in The Times, "The provision in the proposed contract calls for the hotels to equip certain employees with 'devices to be carried on their persons at work that they can quickly and easily activate to effectively summon prompt assistance to their location.'"

The Sofitel and the Pierre, where Egyptian businessman Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar sexually abused a maid two weeks after DSK's arrest, agreed this summer to give housekeepers panic buttons after meeting with union officials. (In June, Omar pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge.) The buttons will reportedly be distributed within a year. The cost of this added equipment for housekeepers as well as employees delivering room service and stocking minibars has not been disclosed.

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For all the news the panic buttons are making, the bigger story here may be the fact that the New York Hotel Trades Council has managed to get not only pretty significant raises -- wages will increase 29 percent over the life of the seven-year contract -- but also health insurance with no out-of-pocket costs or even co-pays for union employees. Pension contributions by hotel owners have also gone up. And, even more remarkably in these oft-contentious times between labor unions and management: Contract negotiations were concluded five months before the current contract, which covers employees at most of the city's large hotels, even expired.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.