A City Council committee approved just one of two workers’ rights bills Thursday afternoon, delaying a vote on the second one at the request of a staffer for Council President Brandon Scott.
The bill that passed (20-0543) protects employees in the event of an ownership change.
New management would have to offer jobs to the outgoing business’s employees in order of seniority.
It mirrors legislation the Council passed in 2017 protecting some other service workers in the event of an ownership change. The measure advances to its second reading before the full Council on Monday at 5 p.m.
But it passed the Labor Committee with three amendments that narrow its scope.
It will only apply to hotels – not event centers or commercial properties. The committee also added a sunset clause, terminating it on Dec. 31, 2022. And the law would be waived if a collective bargaining agreement is in place.
Scott Steps in
When the tourism industry rebounds and hotels start hiring again, the second bill (20-0544) would require hotels to offer jobs to employees they laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That bill saw similar amendments but Hilary Ruley of the Law Department – which had opposed the bill, calling it unconstitutional – said she hadn’t had enough time to review them, and asked for a delay.
The committee was set to vote anyway, and offer floor amendments Monday if needed.
But just before voting, Scott aide Caylin Young interrupted and asked committee chair Shannon Sneed to send the hearing into recess so they could speak behind the scenes.
When the hearing resumed a few minutes later, Sneed said they would defer action until Monday morning after the Law Department reviews the amendments.
“I think all sides need to be heard so we can get it right,” she said. “I would rather be on the safe side, than rush it through.”
Hotel Industry Opposed
The amendments appeared not to have persuaded the business community.
“This just is not the time to unfairly target one industry with a discriminatory bill,” said Amy Rohrer of the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, meanwhile, wanted the vote to go forward.
“I would like to see it move as quickly as possible, please, with all due speed,” she said. “I think it’s urgent.”
Burnett emphasized that the legislation doesn’t require hotels to hire. Rather, when they do resume hiring, they would have to look to their own recent employees first.
“[The right of recall] doesn’t force anyone’s hand,” Burnett said. “But it does give priority to people who were already with the employer.”
“It’s hard to see why anyone could object to that idea,” said California labor lawyer Richard McCracken, attorney for Unite Here, which represents many affected hotel and other hospitality industry workers.
“Why wouldn’t it bring back the same people?” he asked.