Washington Republican's anti-trafficking bill trains hospitality workers to spot sex slavers


Washington hotels, motels, resorts and other venues would be required to train employees to recognize and report suspected human trafficking under a bill sponsored by Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco.

Senate Bill 6056 was unanimously approved Wednesday. It is now in the House. If approved, hospitality employers will be required to train staffers by Feb. 1, 2025, and all new employees within 90 days of being hired.

Failure to comply could result in a property losing its license to operate from the state health department.

Torres said she was motivated after hearing a presentation by Shared Hope International, a nonprofit focused on human trafficking, that gave Washington an overall grade of "C" in 2023 for its efforts and an "F" for its capacity to respond to its victims.

2026 World Cup

Torres said data indicate a rising challenge on the I-5 corridor, with traffic spiking during major events that bring in masses of tourists.

Notably, Seattle has been selected to host six matches during the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The annual Tri-Cities Water Follies also is known to attract traffickers who sell sex with young women and girls in hotel rooms.

"We need to be prepared for this, because when you have those types of events — that bring in that magnitude of people — that is when you see a large influx of human trafficking," Torres said.

The Washington Hospitality Association, representing 6,000 members, has long embraced training workers to combat hotel-based trafficking. It said it supports the current legislation and testified that stopping trafficking is a priority.

"Keeping people safe is at the forefront of our industry. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Senator Torres and we thank her for highlighting the importance of human trafficking prevention in our industry," Montana Miranda, senior manager of government affairs, told lawmakers.

Training happening now

The new rules would formalize training that most major chains already provide, said Tricia MacFarlan, executive director of Mirror Ministries, a Richland nonprofit that combats the issue by training hotel and other workers and by operating Esther's Home, which provides supportive housing for victims.

Most hotel operators are eager allies who don't want their properties used by traffickers and who work hard to protect guests., she said. Mirror Ministries has provided training to local hotels for about 12 years.

McFarland endorsed the spirit of empowering more people to act when they suspect people are being trafficked, typically for sex. Federal law, she said, already makes it a crime for certain professions to fail to take reasonable steps to intervene in suspected trafficking cases.

Mirror Ministries encourages hotels to use the free and low-cost training provided by Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, a Seattle nonprofit. Her group augments the training by providing local hotel and other workers information on what the group sees happening in the Tri-Cities, she said.