Hospitality supports bill requiring human trafficking prevention training 

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OLYMPIA House Bill 2320, a measure to require training on human trafficking awareness and prevention was heard in the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Business on Jan. 21. The Washington Hospitality Association testified in strong support of the bill on behalf of its 6,000 members across the state. Already many of the national hotel brands provide their employees with human trafficking prevention training.

The Washington Hospitality Association is supportive of this legislation, has active partnerships with organizations working to end human trafficking and participates on the Washington State Task Force Against the Trafficking of Persons, a statewide task force that works to prevent human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is the third largest criminal activity in the world and we know it has impacts on every industry,” said Rep. Mari Leavitt, D- University Place. “I’m proud to sponsor this bill so we can take steps to educate workers within the hospitality industry to recognize the signs of trafficking and inform local law enforcement. We must pass this legislation and help save lives of people trapped in terrible, heart-breaking circumstances.”

Under the bill, transient accommodation licensees would need to annually provide written documentation of specific human trafficking awareness and prevention training in order to receive their transient accommodation license with the state Department of Health. A transient accommodation is defined in state law (RCW 70.62.210(1)) as “any facility such as a hotel, motel, condominium, resort, or any other facility or place offering three or more lodging units to travelers and transient guests.”

Specific training components of the bill require:

  • The definition of human trafficking, commercial exploitation of children and the difference between sex trafficking and labor trafficking;
  • Guidance specific to the public lodging sector concerning how to identify individuals who may be victims of human trafficking;
  • Guidance concerning the role of an employee in responding to suspected human trafficking; and
  • The contact information for appropriate agencies, including the national human trafficking hotline telephone number and the telephone numbers of appropriate local law enforcement agencies.

Washington state leads the nation with some of the strongest human trafficking awareness and prevention laws already in place. As a state with an international border, active seaports, reliance on agricultural workers, many rural areas and connections to major interstate highways, Washington is a target for traffickers. House Bill 2320 builds on the strong foundation and resources already available to assisting survivors and those being exploited.

Senior Manager of Local Government Affairs Anna Boone also testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Seattle Hotel Association. “The Seattle Hotel Association is supportive of this important human rights legislation,” said Juergen Oswald, general manager of the Seattle Hilton, and member of the Seattle Hotel Association Board of Directors. “This bill expands the best practice programs many hotels already have in place; training employees to know human trafficking when they see it and to take appropriate action to help survivors. With this hearing and passage of the bill we will send a clear message that there is no room for human trafficking in Washington state.”

The first time January was designated National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention month was in 2010. The anniversary of the proclamation, Jan. 11, is known as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The Washington Hospitality Association and the Seattle Hotel Association in coordination with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, are working to raise awareness of the topic during January with the #NoRoom for Trafficking campaign, which encourages further training for workers to identify and end human trafficking. The other four steps of the industry’s action plan include displaying human trafficking indicator signage, establishing company-wide policies, ongoing coordination with law enforcement and sharing stories and best practices.

The bill is on the executive session agenda of the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Business on Jan. 22. The bill will need to clear several additional legislative hurdles before reaching the governor’s desk.

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About the Washington’s Hospitality Association:

Hospitality is the industry that serves. The Washington Hospitality Association delivers wins for the largest group of private employers in the state. The 296,600 jobs the industry provides are the backbone of our state’s economy. The association works at the state and local levels to find proactive solutions to the challenging issues facing the industry and its workforce. It supplies its members with programs, services and information they need to deliver great local experiences, ensure the success of their employees and help their communities thrive. The Washington Hospitality Association became one of the state’s largest trade associations in 2016 when the Washington Restaurant Association and Washington Lodging Association joined forces in a combined association.