By MICHAEL JACOBSON and CHIP ROGERS
In the hotel and lodging industry, our workforce is the heart of our business and our industry’s greatest resource. In a business of people taking care of people, we could not be successful without the eight million men and women in jobs that the hotel industry supports. In Illinois alone, we employ nearly 300,000 individuals and support more than $15 billion in wages and salaries. With this great honor, comes great responsibility. To that end, we have been prioritizing programs that invest in our workforce, protect our employees and guests and support our local communities.
Our industry remains more committed than ever before to proactive work, and we are always looking for new opportunities to work with experts, lawmakers and other interested parties to discuss these important and complex issues. That’s why we were encouraged that the Illinois Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention’s 2018 report recognized the important work that the hotel and lodging industry is doing to improve worker safety and prevent sexual harassment and assault within our properties.
That’s also why the American Hotel & Lodging Association partnered with major brands in membership last year to announce the unprecedented 5-Star Promise, a renewed commitment to enhanced policies aimed at ensuring the safety of our workforce. This initiative will provide industry-wide training and materials on safety and security, implement mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies, provide ongoing training for employees on identifying and reporting sexual harassment, provide employee safety devices and broaden partnerships with national organizations that target sexual violence and promote workplace safety.
The hotel industry also has a strong legacy of training around other critical safety and security issues, like helping to stop the scourge of human trafficking. We are working to accomplish this by broadening partnerships with wide-ranging national organizations that target sexual violence, sexual assault and trafficking and promote workplace safety, including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, and Polaris and continue providing industry-wide training and materials development.
We commend Sens. Melinda Bush and Ram Villivalam, as well as Rep. Terra Costa Howard, for focusing on these important issues in recent weeks. As they consider legislation in Springfield, we stand in solidarity with them to protect both our employees and guests. Ensuring the safety of our associates and customers is an example of how business owners, unions and government officials can work together to advance a common goal on such critical issues.
In addition to creating a safe work environment, the hotel and lodging industry is committed to providing a rewarding environment that fosters development and training. To that end, the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association has been working with American Hotel & Lodging Association for decades to recruit and retain workers for life-long careers in hospitality with scholarships, workforce development initiatives and industry-recognized certifications. As part of this commitment, AHLA’s foundation, the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation, has announced another grant of $500,000 to community-based organizations in six markets where the labor market is tight, including Chicago. This program allowed us to train nearly 75 Chicago youth and prepared them to participate in the “Hospitality Hires Chicago” hiring event that was co-sponsored by IHLA and held last week. We look forward to soon welcoming them to full-time employment in the Chicago hospitality industry.
We all have a duty to work together – employees, businesses and government – to find solutions to advance these goals. We look forward to working with members of the Illinois Legislature and Chicago City Council to prioritize our workforce and implement industry-wide policies and procedures to ensure safety for all employees.
Chip Rogers, of Washington, D.C., is president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Michael Jacobson, of Chicago, is president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association.
You can view the full IL Business Journal op-ed here.