Imagine waking up one morning and reading
these headlines in your local paper: “Hotel workers now subject to
intimidation after passage of the Employee Free Choice Act” and
“Seasonal worker shortage forces local resort to close.”
Think it’s impossible that you’ll never see these headlines? Think
again. Congress has pending legislation that would make these headlines
and more become reality. But there’s a catch: lawmakers first have to
get these bills past constituents like you.
Each year, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA)
gives its members an opportunity to visit with their legislators and
help them understand how the lodging industry operates during our
Legislative Action Summit (LAS). It’s also the best opportunity our
industry has to show lawmakers what legislative ideas we support, and
what we oppose.
2010 is an election year, which means you’ll have more of an impact in
your visits than you would at other times. LAS gives you the chance to
educate and influence Washington’s reach into your business’s profit
and operations plans. Whether you like it or not, what happens on
Capitol Hill with health care insurance restructuring, labor relations,
business taxes, and immigration reform will ultimately affect how you
conduct your hotel’s daily business. Having worked in government, I can
tell you firsthand that the industries that take the time to develop
relationships with their legislators and educate them about their
business are the ones who ultimately benefit from the laws developed.
And the March 2010 summit in Washington, D.C., could not be timed
better for you to make your opinion heard about the legislature’s plans
for your hotel.
This year, Congress’ agenda is full of issues that will affect how you
will do business, whom you will be able to hire, and what benefits you
can or must offer. Health care most likely will be on the agenda again
in some fashion, either as round two of the legislative debate seeking
some kind of compromise or working out the endless details needed to
implement what was signed into law. Immigration reform has been
promised an appearance by Senate leadership. Climate change legislation
and financial regulatory reform also will be debated, as well as
continued economic relief and job creation.
And above all, the legislative calendar will be shaped around the
November 2010 elections for the entire House of Representatives and
one-third of the Senate.
At the March 15-16 LAS, our industry will be specifically talking about
the Travel Promotion Act, the Employee Free Choice Act, health care
reforms, and the Senate’s climate change bill. Immigration and possible
H-2B program reforms are also high on the list. Other issues such as
the reintroduction of the costly American with Disabilities Act reforms
may also find an audience on Capitol Hill, but only if enough industry
members give their point of view.
Too many people think that they can’t make a difference, or the process
in Washington is too daunting. But, members of Congress depend on those
who work every day in an industry to let them know how a particular
piece of legislation may affect them. Taking time out of your busy
schedule to travel to our nation’s capital shows your congressional
delegation that these issues make a difference to a large portion of
owners and employees of a significant national business segment.
Past LAS attendees talk about the surprising impact that their visit
leaves on their lawmakers. “I am a small independent owner that was
able to have my voice heard because of the impact of the large number
of the industry representatives all on the Hill on the same day,” said
Sandra Johnson-Thares, CHA, and managing owner of the legendary O’Haire
Motor Inn in Great Falls, Mont. “My Senator remembered my previous
visit, and since then I have been invited to visit with him in regards
to lodging issues throughout the year, when he has questions, or wants
to know how pending legislation will affect our business. I would
encourage anyone to attend LAS to make that contact and to show that we
do care about what’s happening in Washington, D.C.”
Last March, after the $700 billion economic stimulus plans were passed
into law, more than 200 hoteliers felt compelled to travel to
Washington and lobby their own lawmakers about future economic recovery
plans. They also talked about the importance of travel promotion
legislation, as well as the serious financial hit that would befall
their companies if the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) was passed. Our
presence in Washington immediately after EFCA was introduced enabled us
to show Congress the devastating and long-term impact EFCA would have
on lodging employees and businesses throughout the United States.
Because of our industry’s strong and continued opposition to the bill,
EFCA has not moved forward this year.
This year’s LAS will provide a wealth of unique opportunities to its
attendees. Besides the personal lobbying on behalf of their businesses
and industry on our issues, the opportunity to network with fellow
hoteliers is second to none. Four top industry CEOs from Best Western,
Choice, InterContinental, and Hilton will be featured during Monday’s
CEO panel to discuss their insight on how this year’s legislation will
impact their own corporate business decisions.
LAS is your time to gain the latest insights on current lodging issues
and to convey that knowledge to legislators to benefit your business
and the lodging industry. But you have to make the first step. Find out
more about your own state lodging association’s plans to come to LAS,
or make the trip yourself and use the many resources AH&LA provides
to its members to make the most of this exclusive opportunity.
Start the journey by registering for the Legislative Action Summit online today at www.ahla.com/LAS.
I hope you will make plans to come to Washington next month—remember,
it’s up to you to make sure they get the headlines right!
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