Executive Director’s Message: Another Legislative Session comes to a close.

Each year starts out with the hopes of personal resolutions and a more profitable year than last. But it also kicks off a new legislative session. There are many proposed bills that arise, some from past years and others brand new. This year’s legislative session was no different. Our responsibility as an association representing an industry, is to communicate what bills are presented and testify, to the best of our ability, either in favor or opposing these bills. There are many bills that have good intent, like cleaning up the environment, but lack the proper language to achieve the goal.

Let’s start off with the proposed BANNING of products. Just to be clear, HRA is all for a cleaner environment, But we are opposed to BANS on products in HOPES to reduce litter. We would be happy to discuss a way to transition restaurants into using more environmentally friendly products, but no one likes to be told DON’T or YOU CAN’T do something. If we are ever going to reduce litter, we need to address where it comes from….TRASH. Before it is litter it is someone’s trash, once it gets out of its receptacle, it is litter and becomes everyone’s problem. So we have once again held off a ban on plastic straws and Styrofoam containers.

In addition to the potential increase of expenses for different products, comes the potential increase to our labor costs. A couple of other bills that would have crippled the food service industry were minimum wage increases and mandatory paid sick leave. I can go on forever about how minimum wage was never meant to be a LIVING WAGE, but more for entry level, unskilled labor that, with training, will earn more. A low minimum wage levels out the cost of labor and allows us to keep our menu prices down. Those that believe minimum wage is not attached to the cost of living index need to think again. Minimum wage goes up, so do menu prices and everything else we buy. We joke about the $25 Hamburger, but it will happen if minimum wage hits $15 an hour.

On top of all this, the bills that call for mandatory paid sick leave and family leave, albeit of good intent, are just as devastating if not more to our industry. First off, these benefits to employees are the most abused of all benefits. The thinking that not everyone will get sick and therefore we won’t have to pay the benefit for everyone is wrong. Once it is mandated, the common phrase “use it or lose it” will be heard in the backs of all restaurants, as we here in the union hotels now. So paying someone to have a day off creates huge financial hardship on restaurants; your pay the person calling in sick 8 hours of pay, then you pay the person covering them the same rate, unless they are going into overtime, then you are paying time and a half. So that would be two and a half times the budgeted cost to fill that position, if you can even find someone to work within a two hour window from when the call comes in. These bills are also dead, until next session. Be ready.

Bills that we opposed; Controlling work schedules, Minimum Wage increase, Paid Sick leave, Family Sick leave, Bans on plastic straws and Styrofoam, Employer paid workers comp claims, and more that relate.

We all need to come together as an industry and address these issues in numbers. At the same time, discuss with legislators a viable solution to reach similar goals. Other states and even whole countries how gone through this, let’s work together. Mahalo.

Gregg Fraser

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