AH&LA, AAHOA throw down gauntlet on City of LA
AH&LA, AAHOA throw down gauntlet on City of LA
19 DECEMBER 2014 8:34 AM
The AH&LA and AAHOA are co-plaintiffs on a lawsuit that seeks to prohibit the City of Los Angeles from interfering in labor relations.
Katherine Lugar has her gloves on, and she’s not willing to pull any punches.
That much was made clear during a press conference earlier this week in which Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, threw down the gauntlet (and a lawsuit) against the City of Los Angeles to repeal an ordinance that imposes higher wages on large hotels.
Beyond that, the Hotel Workers Act includes an “exemption for collective bargaining” that empowers unions to waive any part of the ordinance for any hotel they cover through a collective bargaining agreement.
In layman’s terms: Unions now have a lot more ammunition to extract concessions from hotel management.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I’m not inserting my own ideological or political bias here. United States labor law is intended to allow for an equilibrium—a fair and just balance of power—between laborers and labor management.
That L.A.’s City Council sought to disrupt that balance, with some heavy nudging from organized labor, with a targeted attack on one sector of the economy is as insidious as it is arbitrary.
Just think about this for a moment: City officials did not vote to approve a living wage increase and the exemption for the entire city. That much I could understand (and might even support as it relates to the wage increase if under the right circumstances.) They’re targeting the hotel industry alone—and within that industry a subset of hoteliers who own properties of a certain size.
What’s more, these are the people who drive a disproportionate share of the city’s economic development. Tourism in L.A. supports one in 10 jobs, according to Lugar. Why a city would want to handicap one of its biggest support valves is beyond me.
The City Council overstepped its bounds, and voters recognized as much. A recent survey showed that 65% of them are opposed to the proposal to raise the minimum wage solely for hotel workers.
As Lugar alleged during the press conference, the City of L.A. “exceeded its authority by adopting an ordinance against hotels that disrupts long-established labor law. … It violates ground rules set by Congress governing the relationship between labor and management.”
Standing in her corner (and on the call) were:
  • Chip Rogers, interim president of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which is a co-plaintiff on the suit;
  • Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles;
  • Lynn Mohrfeld, president and CEO of the California Hotel & Lodging Association; and
  • Michael Starr, partner at Holland & Knight and lead attorney in the suit.
“We would prefer not to be here today talking about this,” Rogers said, “but actions have consequences. … This ordinance is something we profoundly disagree with.”
In their lawsuit, the AH&LA and AAHOA seek to “enjoin the City of Los Angeles from interfering with labor relations, collective bargaining and union organizing at every single one of the larger hotels within its jurisdiction,” according to a fact sheet.
The plaintiffs do not disagree with wage hikes per se, however. On the contrary, Lugar said they are prepared to work with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and city officials on a “fair and across-the-board” increase for all workers.
Garcetti and the City Council should take that lifeline. By supporting a city-wide wage increase, they’re able to save face without having to backtrack completely.
Here’s hoping common sense leads all parties to a common ground.
Now on to the usual goodies …
What’s making me happy this week?
Restored diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba. There’s a certain degree of civic pride here as I witness a 50-year remnant of Cold War-bred paranoia begin its slow thaw. There’s also excitement as it relates to travel and tourism. For the first time in decades, travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba are easing. While a free flow of travel is likely still years away, that’s great news for hoteliers with established footholds in our neighbor to the south. Meliá Hotels International is one of them with nearly 30 properties in the country. (The company’s stock price was up 3% yesterday compared to the Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index, which was up only 1.9%.)
Stat of the week
$430 million: Agreed-upon cash purchase price of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, the innovative boutique trailblazer, by global hotel giant InterContinental Hotels Group.
Quote of the week
“It is a perfect fit.” 
—InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Richard Solomons, describing the group’s acquisition of the boutique Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. 
Reader comment of the week
“this sounds like a marketing fact sheet. i hate that hnn says it wasn’t influenced, but in reality there had to be some influence if a company pays for a reporter’s airfare and hotel.”
—Reader “Anonymous” questioning the objectivity of my reporting in “5 things about Expedia you didn’t know.”
(Some quick background: I attended the Expedia Partner Conference in Las Vegas last week, for which Expedia Inc. covered the cost of airfare and hotel accommodations—as it did other journalists and industry observers. When such instances take place, we alert readers with an editor’s note at the end of content spelling out what exactly was provided.) 
“Anonymous” raises some interesting questions with his comment. The first is whether we’re right in alerting our readers when a company has paid for some portion of our travel accommodations—which is a common practice in the trade press. I can answer that one with a definitive “yes.”

“Anonymous” is able to raise this issue because we clearly label when such instances occur. At HNN, we pride ourselves on integrity and transparency. As such, we’re virtually the only one of our competitors to do that.
Another question—more of a curious observation, really—is his/her interpretation of the piece. A “marketing fact sheet,” eh? I didn’t view all of those points as the type of polished marketing speak you typically hear from executives. Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi champions some approaches (e.g., cannibalization of his brands, disproportionate marketing spend, loss-leading expansion in emerging markets) that might turn off some investors. 
The final, and perhaps most important, point is this: Thank you, “Anonymous,” and keep the constructive criticism coming. Comments like this spark good debate within the HNN offices that cause us to constantly rethink the way we report and present the news. That ultimately leads to a better product, which is what we’re all about. 
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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