National Report – In 2014, workers in the hotel industry began to push for higher wages. This movement came to a head in October, when the city of Los Angeles granted a minimum-wage increase from $9 to $15.31 per hour to workers at hotels with more than 300 rooms, effective July of this year, and to workers at hotels with at least 150 rooms, effective July 2016. However, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is fighting this decision, claiming its implementation will hamper the industry’s ability to create jobs.
Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AH&LA, said that, in many cases, wages are increasing too high and too fast, resulting in a loss of jobs. She added that the hotel industry as a whole employs above the minimum wage and works with employees to create opportunities for advancement.
Most importantly, Lugar views the decision to increase the minimum wage in Los Angeles as a form of discrimination against the hotel industry.
“What is occurring right now in Los Angeles is a very specific effort in which the city has interfered with federal labor laws. As a result, it has become a national issue with national implications,” Lugar said.
Lugar is referring to the city’s “waiver provision,” an ordinance that gives tools to workers and labor unions that the AH&LA claims could disrupt the relationship between the unions and the hotel industry. As a result, the AH&LA and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles on December 16, 2014, alleging that its recent minimum-wage increase “attempts to exercise power beyond the limits of the city’s authority.”
“The careful balance between the federal regulation of labor and management relations cannot be changed at the local level,” Lugar said. “The rest of the country is watching what happens in Los Angeles. This is the focus of our lawsuit.”
According to Lugar, the AH&LA is open to working with governments on any level to ensure that the rollout of wage increases takes place over a reasonable timeframe. Lugar also defended hotel workers, saying they have every right to advocate and make their concerns known through the avenues they feel are best, but she also defended the industry’s track record.
“Fifty percent of our GMs began in entry-level jobs, and we are proud of the upward mobility the hotel industry provides” Lugar said. “We are proud of the jobs—with competitive wages and benefits—that turn into long-lasting careers in the sector.”
WHAT'S A WORKWEEK?
The AH&LA is also involved in efforts to reclassify full-time employees as those who work 40 hours per week. The AH&LA maintains that the 30-hour-per-week definition of full-time work under the Affordable Care Act has hurt workers.
In the hotel industry, Lugar said, the mandate restricts employee-scheduling flexibility, which attracts many workers to the industry. The AH&LA also said the 30-hour workweek has forced businesses to reconsider expansion plans or the hiring of additional workers.
“We believe these negative effects would be reversed if the standard [were] restored to the 40-hour definition that the business community has been using for decades,” Lugar said.
As part of its argument, the AH&LA joined the More Time for Full Time initiative, comprised of the retail, restaurant, grocery and hospitality sectors, all pulling for the restoration of the 40-hour workweek. “This is an issue not only pertinent to hotels, but to industries that employ millions of people,” Lugar said.
The many battles of the AH&LA
Here are three other issues the AH&LA is taking a stance on:
1 Online rentals. According to the AH&LA, companies such as Airbnb, and those who host guests using their service, are attempting to act like hotels, while remaining exempt from laws and regulations that benefit both consumers and communities. The AH&LA is working to have short-term rental companies comply with local, state and federal taxes and other laws, and to enforce regulations.
2 International travel. The AH&LA supports policies that increase the number of international travelers to the U.S., including the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, and initiatives that allow travel visas to become easier to obtain—without compromising security.
3 Franchises. The National Labor Relations Board is considering expanding the definition of “joint employer,” an action that the AH&LA believes would undermine the employer-employee relationship and damage the autonomy of small-business owners through franchises.