I’d call my member of Congress, but I’m too busy. Someone else will send this letter to Capitol Hill—I’ll send one next time.
Does this sound familiar? As an industry we are facing critical issues that require your involvement, but too often individuals rely on others to make calls and write letters. From pool lift mobilization, to the broad issue of labor regulations or the specific concerns relating to H-2B visas, lodging is in the thick of it all. And the fact remains that if you want results, you need to be part of the process.
A letter, email, or phone call directly from a voter reinforces the work AH&LA does in Washington. This is at least partly attributable to the fact that most elected officials want to remain in office. To that end, they need to raise issues that will resonate with constituents and result in votes. Individuals living in a member’s district and state, particularly those who run businesses and create jobs, are taken very seriously in Congressional offices. And that’s why a call to action for hoteliers makes such an impact.
AH&LA is your voice in Washington—we lay the groundwork on issues that matter to the lodging industry. We meet with congressional offices to educate members and their staffs on the pressing issues that affect your business. But when there’s an alert, mobilizing the collective strength of the hospitality industry has been very effective. Here are just two examples:
POOL LIFT REQUIREMENT UNDER THE ADA
When AH&LA began hearing conflicting reports on pool lift requirements under the new 2010 Standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) we immediately sought clarification from the Department of Justice (DOJ). Our members believed portable lifts would meet the requirements while safeguarding children who might be injured playing on these lifts. After AH&LA secured a meeting with DOJ for Feb. 8, 2012, DOJ then issued a Jan. 31, 2012, reinterpretation of the original 2010 Standards stating nearly every pool and spa would need a permanently affixed lift.
Hoteliers were distraught as the change came without warning and reasonable time to achieve compliance before the March 15 deadline. AH&LA reached out to congressional offices, and received support for the industry’s position on Capitol Hill. AH&LA’s Legislative Action Summit was well timed, bringing hundreds of hoteliers to Washington, D.C., to share their personal stories with members of Congress. Hoteliers provided examples of why they were concerned over installing a permanent lift and how utilizing a portable lift and sharing it between pools would achieve the desired goals of access and safety.
This impressive gathering demonstrated the importance of the issue to our industry and generated the bipartisan support we needed to make this issue rise in importance for the White House. All told, our LAS meetings generated three bills and bipartisan support from more than 150 members of Congress who wrote letters or called on behalf of the industry to express concern over DOJ’s unreasonable position.
Following this major grassroots push, AH&LA secured a compromise on the ADA pool lift requirement. We worked with the White House to extend the compliance deadline 60 days, and on May 17 the DOJ announced Jan. 31, 2013, as the new compliance date. These results are not typical and are a direct result of industry involvement at every level and from every community across the country. I personally know Senators and Representatives who acted on this only because local hoteliers asked them. Believe it or not, Congress listens to constituents and your outreach makes a real difference.
The H-2B program is a critical staffing option for seasonal hoteliers. During the peak season, hotels and resorts must increase their workforce with temporary workers in order to supplement and support their full-time staff. If no local workers are available to fill temporary jobs during peak seasons, hoteliers can turn to the H-2B program to fill those temporary jobs and support full-time staff.
Unfortunately, the AFL-CIO is aggressively seeking to end the H-2B program. Labor-sponsored “briefings” on Capitol Hill paint an inaccurate picture of how employers utilize the program, ignoring the fact that these workers are incredibly costly and complicated to hire.
Hoteliers have led the way on this issue, contacting members of Congress and attending the labor-sponsored “briefings” to submit questions and expose the empty claims. As a result, congressional staffers know the realities of the H-2B program and consistently support the lodging industry’s position.
In fact, as part of a federal government-funding bill for Fiscal Year 2012, Congress blocked a Department of Labor rule that would have artificially inflated H-2B wages. Although this is extremely difficult, we are making progress because hoteliers are calling their members of Congress and urging them to block the rule.
As a direct result of our outreach, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) introduced H.J.Res. 104 in the House and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) introduced S.J.Res. 38 in the Senate, which would block the H-2B rules from going into effect. These results demonstrate the power of industry involvement and what we can accomplish by explaining the impact of these regulations on our business.
These are just two examples of the numerous issues that lodging continues to face. We’ve marshaled hoteliers against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules regarding ambush elections, the NLRB notice posting requirement, the attempt by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prohibit criminal background checks, and countless other issues.
Hoteliers rallied together when the threat of Card Check loomed. It was a defining moment and the industry made a statement that it would stand together to fight for what is best for lodging. Since that issue, the online hotel booking tax, pool lift requirement, labor regulations, and countless other issues have demonstrated that lodging has a powerful voice. But it is important that every hotelier pitch in and contribute. Every hotelier needs to contact their members of Congress when a pressing issue surfaces and take advantage of opportunities to explain how legislation and regulations affect their business. Join in and get involved.