Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat whose Florida district includes tourist meccas such as Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort, plans to introduce a bill today that would mandate paid vacation for most American workers.
While the measure could boost travel to Grayson’s district and theoretically spur an uptick in tourism around the United States, the travel industry’s response has been tepid.
And Grayson, whom Republicans have already labeled as too liberal for a Congressional seat previously held by the GOP, definitely is not winning many friends among business lobby groups, who say the bill would give government too much control over how companies conduct their business.
The groups argue that during this economic downtown any positive impact on the travel and tourism industry would be eclipsed by the added burden it would place on already-struggling companies.
“Our members would absolutely be against it,— said Dan Danner, the top lobbyist at the National Federation of Independent Business. “It’s another step toward the government telling them how to run their business.—
Grayson’s bill, the Paid Vacation Act, would mandate that all companies with at least 100 employees provide — after one year — at least one week of paid vacation each year. The law would apply to full-time and part-time employees who work at least 25 hours a week.
Three years after the legislation is enacted, those companies would have to offer their employees two weeks of paid vacation, while companies with at least 50 employees would be required to provide a week off.
Grayson said that while tourism could always improve in his district, his main impetus for the bill is not to increase travel to Orlando.
“This is one of the things that we need in order to have a happy, well-rounded life,— Grayson said, adding: “We have to give some hard thinking to what it takes to make life in America better for ordinary people.—
At a press event today, Grayson plans to draw on studies that say people with paid vacation time are healthier, more productive workers.
“Study after study shows that people who have vacations are less prone to heart attack, less prone to stroke and less prone to infirmities of all kinds,— Grayson said.
“At a time like this, I think it will spur the economy tremendously,— he added.
But John Endean, president of the American Business Conference, said that now is not the time to raise the cost of employment while employers already are struggling.
“Do we really want to make the cost of hiring people more expensive?— Endean said. “Whenever you raise the price of anything, you get less of it.—
Brent Thompson, chief lobbyist for Expedia, said his online travel company supports the spirit and objectives of the bill, but is concerned about how it will affect the larger business community.
“The thing we’ve got to figure out is how we balance employment costs and the ability to get consumers paid vacations, because if they don’t have a job, they can’t take a vacation,— Thompson said. “If the consequence is someone loses a job because of that, then that’s a bad outcome. … [But] we feel that getting consumers a paid vacation is a good objective.—
Geoff Freeman, senior vice president at the U.S. Travel Association, said his organization needs to do a full analysis of Grayson’s bill.
“We appreciate the Congressman, and he’s a great ally for travel,— Freeman said. “We think that travel really is critical to stimulating the economy and there are lots of ways of doing it, and this is one thing to consider.—
Grayson said his staff members have been in touch with business interests and “we have made changes based on those conversations, and we’ll continue to.—
“This is not a liberal bill,— he continued. “It’s a bill about what it takes to bring families together and enjoy life.—
One travel industry source said the measure would be especially problematic for businesses such as restaurants that thrive on tourism but don’t typically offer paid vacation leave for employees.
“The intent is good,— the lobbyist said. “It seems like a pretty heavy lift to mandate it at a time when people are worried about losing their jobs.—