Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Problem with "Freedom to Work" Proposal from the City-County Council

I'm going to make this one brief. I'm honestly pretty late to the game on this one, and the proposal has been covered extensively over at other blogs such as Indy Democrat, Ogden on Politics, and in the mainstream media via the Indy Star.

I've got a decent working relationship with the pro-union group Unite Here. And as a hospitality worker myself, I have a lot of sympathy for their concerns. The low pay, grueling hours, and the pressure to do a huge amount of work without a proper amount of time and/or supplies, is something I completely understand. People would be absolutely horrified at how some hotels in this city are run, and how corners are cut to maximize profit. Yes, there are lazy hotel workers just as there are lazy workers in any industry. But most hospitality workers want to do a good job, but are not able to because they only have so much time to deal with. Run out of a certain type of detergent? Just run the wash anyway. Spend more than 20 minutes cleaning a room for an arriving guest? Get it done in two more minutes and move onto the next and hope the guest doesn't notice anything that was missed.

That's on top of what is essentially blacklisting people from advancing in their chosen field for daring to be employed, which is what the current proposal is about. While I might not personally favor a law telling hotels what basis on they can or can't hire, I really find it confusing why employers would rule out otherwise qualified applicants because of their current employment status. Of course you can't work for two competitors in the same field, so the solution is you leave one job when you get the other. But after you've left, you shouldn't have your previous work history held against you unless you did something illegal or unethical.

So, their basis for these goals are noble. There are legitimate concerns about how these hotels operate. Especially when it comes to the downtown area hotels, which largely exist due to financial subsidies from the city and state.

So why do these ordinances, often introduced by my Democratic friends who have strong union ties, tend to only focus on problems that would benefit downtown area hotel workers? At least in one case, the proposed tax credit for hotel workers, it was written specifically to only benefit downtown hospitality workers.

One of the themes that I often heard in the 2011 municipal election, talking off the record with Democratic council candidates and Democratic volunteers, was that so much attention, time, and money has been sunk into the downtown area over the last several years. So that it is now time to turn the attention to the rest of the county and hopefully let the entire city benefit from efforts that have practically revitalized downtown.

They might be showing some resolve when it comes to expanding the downtown TIF district, something that'll only "benefit" downtown. But when it comes to hotel workers, their focus is lacking when it comes to hospitality workers outside of downtown Indianapolis.

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