Union-backed measures targeting tourism industry yanked from council agenda

The Phoenix City Council withdrew from today’s posted meeting agenda a package of proposed ordinances that would have imposed stiff new mandates on an already wobbly tourism and hospitality sector.

Dubbed the “Phoenix Healthy Tourism and Hospitality Measures” by supporting councilmembers Betty Guardado, Laura Pastor and Carlos Garcia, the package was criticized strongly by the hospitality industry, which was not consulted before the proposals were made publicly available.

The withdrawal of the proposed ordinances is a setback for labor unions. Hotels and restaurants that entered into collective bargaining agreements with labor unions would have been exempt from the new mandates, which sought to regulate hiring procedures, paid leave, how many square feet an employee could clean, hygiene standards and more.

According to city rules, an item may appear on an agenda if it is supported in writing by at least three councilmembers. The same three councilmembers may also remove the item from an agenda.

A letter from Guardado, Pastor and Garcia requesting the withdrawal was submitted to City Manager Ed Zuercher at 10 am, just as the meeting was scheduled to begin.

Mayor Kate Gallego, in seeking clarification from city staff on how the hospitality measures could continue to be discussed at a council level, said “I as mayor could call a meeting on the hospitality ordinance and I am publicly committing I will not be doing so.”

City Attorney Cris Meyer said a future special meeting could be called by three councilmembers.

Zuercher said stakeholder meetings would take place on the issue. The results of those meetings would be communicated to the council, and city staff would await further direction on how to proceed. The mayor or three councilmembers could choose to place the issue on an upcoming council agenda.

Kim Sabow, the president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, which led the opposition to proposals, cheered the outcome of today’s meeting, but warned that future regulatory mandates on the tourism sector could appear on another agenda.

“It’s clear that the unions didn’t have the votes and their plan to pull a fast one was thwarted–at least for today–but we have to stay vigilant,” Sabow said. “Our top priority is protecting our employees and guests, which is why we have invested significant resources in new sanitation protocols, enhanced training and personal protective gear. The Phoenix City Council needs to focus on policies that will help the industry recover from the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer, whose group also strongly opposed the proposals, said he hopes future stakeholders meetings will send the message that collaboration is essential.

“To place an item as broad as this on an agenda at the last minute is no way to shape policy, especially one that affects an industry as essential to Arizona’s economy as tourism,” Hamer said. “Let’s hope that if these issues ever appear again on a council agenda it’s only after consulting with the businesses that will be impacted. I’m glad these measures were withdrawn. They would have inflicted tremendous harm had they passed and jeopardized Phoenix’s overall business reputation.”

While the proposed ordinance sought to establish new sanitary standards, including an at-least-six-hour training class and examination to be conducted by a third party provider, the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association has already developed AZSAFE+CLEAN, a program whereby participating properties can obtain special certification by committing to cleanliness levels that go above and beyond the industry’s already high standards.

Joe Pitts

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