In January, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) appointed Brian Crawford to the role of vice president of governmental and political affairs. Crawford previously served as chief of staff to Florida Congressman Tom Rooney (R).
In his new role with AH&LA, Crawford will support the association’s increased advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill, with a focus on labor and workforce issues. Following the announcement outlining another delay in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer mandate, we asked Crawford to walk through the latest health care changes and delve into some important labor issues that are coming down the pike.
What exactly does this latest announcement about the delay in the employer mandate mean?
The employer mandate was supposed to go into affect in 2014. Last summer, the Obama administration delayed it for a year to 2015. This week the administration, via the Department of Treasury, released new guidance regulations with regards to implementing certain provisions within the ACA. Specific to the hotel industry and our members, it provides two levels of delay. For smaller employers—those companies that employ 60-100 employees—another year has been added to the delay. For employers that have over 100 employees, the administration has phased in an implementation period of two years.
So this is welcome news for the hotel industry?
This is good news. We were pleased that the administration acknowledged the fact that the employer mandate is going to be overly burdensome. This allows our member companies some extra time—especially for small employers that don’t have a lot of resources. They don’t have teams of lawyers and HR experts that can help them prepare for this major change. This is something that our industry and other business groups have been pushing for.
The announcement did not address the definition of full-time workers, which is still defined as employees who work 30 hours or more per week. Is this something AH&LA is still hoping to address?
The House Ways and Means Committee last week marked up a bill that would return the definition of a full-time employee to 40 hours. It passed, and we expect that bill to come to the floor of the House sometime in the next few months.
I think for our members, it’s changing a historic marker, where the 40-hour work week has always been the norm. When you reduce it to 30 hours, you’re creating a scenario where employees are now eligible for health benefits when, under the previous definition, they would have been deemed part-time. That means a significant increase in costs to our employers. We expect the bill to pass the House in the next couple of months. But the next step will be trying to get that change made in the Senate, and obviously the politics in the Senate are much more difficult.
How is AH&LA working with its members to make sure everyone is aware of the health care changes?
These regulations and changes are happening pretty quickly, and a lot of times, they are coming unannounced. It’s important to make our members aware of both the timeline and the ever-changing dynamics of the ACA. We’re also trying to get input from our members to find out how they are dealing with these changes—getting their best practices and trying to get our members to talk to one another. We have committees in place that oversee these issues. These delays are welcome relief because it is going to allow AH&LA, as well as our member companies, more time to get prepared.
The minimum wage has been another labor issue that is on the minds of many hoteliers. What can you tell us about where minimum wage laws stand?
A [federal] minimum wage increase is not likely to become law this year unless the Democrats take control of the House. It’s all part of a very orchestrated campaign by the President and his allies to raise the profile of the minimum wage. The administration is working in conjunction with local leaders, state houses, and governors to increase awareness on the state and local level.
There is a situation in Los Angeles where the city council is trying to raise the minimum wage for hotel employees to $15.37. This is a huge concern for our industry. They are discriminating against hotel entities, and it would certainly create a very dangerous precedent. We are working with local state associations, local owners, and brand leaders to let them know that this is happening.
Immigration reform has been an industry talking point for a long time. Is there still some hope of getting that done?
The President mentioned immigration reform during his State of the Union address. We thought there might be a push to get it done before the November elections, but some folks on the Hill have thrown some cold water on it. Negotiations are still ongoing, but if it doesn’t happen by November, it will be a major push in 2015. We want to make sure that we are prepared for that. A skilled and viable workforce is important to our business.
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