AHLA, Unite Here get behind hotel jobs legislation

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Hotel mask [Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com]
The Save Hotel Jobs Act includes provisions like the rollout of direct payroll grants, which would be used by hotels to cover payroll and benefits for workers. Photo Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and hospitality union group Unite Here are throwing their collective weight behind a proposed bill promising relief for unemployed hotel workers.

Introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., the Save Hotel Jobs Act includes provisions like the rollout of direct payroll grants, which would be used by hotels to cover payroll and benefits for workers. 

The legislation would also require grantees to give laid-off workers recall rights, ensuring those who have lost their hotel jobs due to the pandemic are able to return to their place of employment.

Additionally, the bill comprises worker-friendly tax credits, including a payroll tax credit for 50% of costs associated with the purchase of personal protective equipment, technology designed to reduce the impact of the pandemic, increased employee testing and enhanced cleaning protocols that don't negatively impact the level of work for housekeeping staff.

Travel is getting restarted and travelers seem to be returning to hotels. But some hotel associations are reporting a labor squeeze.

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"Yes, there has been an uptick in leisure travel," acknowledged AHLA CEO Chip Rogers during a virtual press conference with Unite Here president D. Taylor and Crist on Wednesday. "That is wonderful news for an industry that has been holding on by a thread for more than 14 months. But the reality is, this industry cannot survive with leisure travel alone. We must have business travel return at some point so that we can create even more jobs."

A release from the AHLA cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that approximately 3.1 million leisure and hospitality jobs in the U.S. that were lost during the pandemic have yet to return, and that the unemployment rate in the accommodations sector remains 330% higher than that of the larger economy.

Unite Here, which represents more than 300,000 workers across the hotel, casino and food service sectors, estimates that 98% of the group's members were laid off during the height of the pandemic's shutdowns, with around 60% to 70% of members remaining unemployed or underemployed today. 

Among the U.S. markets hardest hit from a hospitality job loss standpoint has been New York, where approximately 200 hotels are still shuttered, according to the AHLA and Unite Here. 

"If you look at hotels, particularly in urban areas, they rely so much on business and convention travelers," Taylor said. "That is not coming back anytime soon. So, we have hundreds of thousands of jobs that are really in jeopardy."

Meanwhile, the proposed legislation comes as some within the hospitality sector allege that the industry is in the midst of a labor shortage, with hotel and restaurant operators in some markets unable to find enough workers to fill empty positions.

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