Industry NewsImmense Impact: Hoteliers Urge Congress to Address Labor Crisis

Immense Impact: Hoteliers Urge Congress to Address Labor Crisis

Hotels across the nation are grappling with historic labor shortages and rising costs that are threatening to stall our industry’s recovery.

As of March, the United States had nearly 9.6 million job openings, but only 5.8 million unemployed workers to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hotels are feeling this gap acutely. Even though they are selling more rooms than ever and despite national average hotel wages reaching $23 an hour, lodging businesses remain critically understaffed, with more than 250,000 fewer workers in April than before the pandemic.

To help address this challenge, lawmakers need to hear from hoteliers about the severity of it. That’s why last month, AHLA hosted more than 200 hoteliers representing 30-plus states in Washington for its Capitol Hill fly-in event, Hotels on the Hill.

Over the course of three impactful days, Hotels on the Hill attendees discussed advocacy strategies and met with members of Congress to advocate for policies focused on growing the hotel workforce.

This year, AHLA facilitated more than 100 meetings, during which hoteliers lobbied congressional members and staff—including House and Senate leadership—to support four main legislative and regulatory priorities for the hotel industry.

H-2B Guestworker Program

The H-2B guestworker program addresses seasonal employment needs by permitting employers to temporarily hire employees from a limited number of countries. However, the program’s statutory cap of 66,000 visas per year is an outdated limit set more than three decades ago and does not address the growing needs of today’s hospitality and service industries.

  • Hotels on the Hill action: Hoteliers urged congressional leadership to include an H-2B returning worker exemption in the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. The measure would exempt returning workers from the inadequate 66,000 annual visa cap—providing much-needed staffing relief to seasonal hotel businesses.
Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act

A historic number of asylum seekers are already housed in hotels across the country, awaiting court dates. Many are eager to work during this legal waiting period, but current law prevents them from working for at least six months, forcing them to rely on assistance from local governments and communities.

  • Hotels on the Hill action: Hoteliers asked lawmakers to cosponsor and pass the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow asylum seekers to work as soon as 30 days after applying for asylum, helping hoteliers address staffing shortages.
Save Local Business Act

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has proposed a new “joint employer” legal standard that would subjectively determine which entities would be considered co-employers for collective bargaining purposes. The NLRB regulation would minimize franchisees’ control over their own businesses, severely complicate hotels’ ability to contract with independent vendors, and allow courts and government bureaucrats to subjectively determine joint-employment liability.

  • Hotels on the Hill action: Hoteliers asked members of Congress to support the Save Local Business Act, which would clarify the definition of an employer as an entity with direct control over specific working conditions.
Department of Labor Overtime Rule

The Department of Labor (DOL) will soon propose changes to the overtime rule, raising the salary exemption threshold for executive, administrative, and professional employees. Three years ago, DOL increased the amount by over $10,000 to $35,568. Some recent proposals would increase it again by nearly $50,000. Such an extreme change would be difficult for hoteliers to absorb and could exacerbate worker shortages, job consolidation, supply chain disruptions, and inflationary pressures.

  • Hotels on the Hill action: Hoteliers encouraged members of Congress to sign a letter to the DOL opposing overtime rule changes.

Thanks to this year’s Hotels on the Hill event, hundreds of hoteliers strengthened their relationships with members of Congress while advocating for key policy initiatives to help expand the hospitality workforce and strengthen the U.S. economy. You, too, can join this movement and keep the momentum going throughout the year: Visit to sign up for alerts and take immediate action on important legislative initiatives.

Chirag Shah
Chirag Shah
Chirag Shah is senior vice president, federal affairs & policy counsel, American Hotel & Lodging Association.