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New York Hotels to Issue "Panic Buttons" to Some Workers

Perhaps there might be some positive outcomes from the Dominique Strauss-Kahn fisaco after all. In a direct response to the case, the newest version of the New York Hotel Trades Council union workers' contract calls for some employees to be equipped 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." In other words, panic buttons that function exactly like the ones that elderly folks sometimes wear in case they fall down and can't get up again.

But! Joking aside, such "panic button" devices like this could help maids and bellhops avoid a situation similar to the one that maid Nafissatou Diallo said she found herself in with Strauss-Kahn last summer. Diallo accused Strauss-Kahn of attacking her in his hotel room when she arrived to clean it.

Although prosecutors eventually decided that Diallo's claims were not credible, the incident shed enough light on the risks of maid work that the hotels decided to do something about it. Many hotel workers are often by themselves for long shifts of time, and measures like this are one way to ensure their safety.

The seven-year contract also calls for a 29 percent incremental increase in wages, benefits guarantees, and a better pension plan. Union members are expected to ratify the contract next week.

[keyana.stevens@keyanastevens]

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