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Ms. Carol Rossi
July 5, 2006
Written Testimony of
Carol Green Rossi, CHRE
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
I am responsible for all aspects of the human resource function for my company's four locations which include a four diamond full service 341 room Hilton franchise in Harrisburg, a 99 room Hilton Garden Inn franchise located in Hershey, a brand new upscale 160 seat restaurant in downtown Harrisburg, and Central Pennsylvania Business School's conference facilities and student restaurant in Summerdale, Pennsylvania.
The majority of my staff's time, effort and our department's budget are spent directly on the recruitment and hiring process to fill the approximately 45 job openings typically posted between our various operations on our weekly job opportunity lists. Our largest operation, the Hilton Harrisburg, employees 320 employees, and on average has 25-40 job openings posted on its weekly job opportunity list. As of Friday, June 30th we have 36 job openings.
To respond to these demands we are constantly in the recruitment mode; attending an average of 25 job fairs annually, including those we host ourselves. We spend over $8,000 in classified newspaper ads and online recruitment sources to attempt to fill our various openings. Not to mention the numerous recruitment trips to various colleges, universities, trade schools, and agencies we make throughout the course of a year. Unfortunately, the dollars spent do not give us the desired results. As an example, we recently hosted a job fair in January to fill positions at our newest operation, Bricco an upscale downtown restaurant. Attractive and costly ads were placed in the Harrisburg Patriot News to draw in candidates. The disappointing results were a mere 20 candidates to interview, three of which were qualified, to fill over 45 positions.
Immigrants are fundamental to the success of both the hotel and restaurant industries, as entrepreneurs, as customers, and as workers. According to recent data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.6 million restaurant employees are immigrants and other foreign-born individuals. More than one quarter of foodservice managers were foreign-born in 2003, making the restaurant industry an industry of opportunity that employs one of the most diverse cross-sections of people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Our industry is a leader in both welfare-to-work and school-to-work programs. Harrisburg Hotel Corporation committed $25,000 to Pennsylvania's launch of the Training for Lodging Careers Program (TLC). Pennsylvania now ranks second in the nation for the number of schools featuring the TLC program in its curriculum. However, even with the strength of this program and the number of students coming into our industry, we still cannot keep up with the growth.
Additionally, our work force is an aging one. Many jobs are labor intensive and physically demanding. Many of these jobs are not attractive to American workers.
We strongly opposed H.R. 4437 because of its focus on enforcement and sanctions with no guest worker program options. Additionally, the worker verification system mandated by the bill is based on a test program, which is neither efficient nor reliable.
The Senate's version, S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2006, recognizes the need to bolster our national security and to allow for an adequate workforce to maintain our economic growth. In addition to substantial measures and resources to secure our borders, S. 2611 creates a stringent earned adjustment program for undocumented workers. The bill also significantly increases the number of foreign-born workers that would be allowed in the U.S. annually and offers H2B cap relief exemption. We support provisions in the immigration reform bill that will permit foreign nationals to enter the country temporarily to fill jobs that no American workers will take.
As an employer one of the absolute most critical tasks we handle on a regular basis is verification of identification for all new hires to prove eligibility to work legally in the U.S. On numerous occasions we have had to discharge an employee after completing the entire employment process, because of their inability to provide valid identification when they arrived for orientation. While this is incredibly frustrating, as we have just finished spending numerous hours and dollars to get the person to this point in the process, we still follow the law to a fault. The employee is terminated, and the dollars and time we merely write off to costs of doing business. We are hopeful that an improved system will be put into place to effectively assist us with this task. We support and understand severe penalties against those who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and also support a safe harbor for good faith errors particularly if we are relying on an error ridden government provided verification system.
In regards to wages and benefits, our employees regardless of classification or nationality are hired at pay rates linked to a particular position. All employees who start as a Room Attendant are paid the same wage. Similarly, employees become eligible for benefits at the same time regardless of their position, management or line employee, U.S. citizen or foreigner. Our benefits programs are comprehensive, and allow an employee to elect a package that includes medical, prescription, dental, vision, short and long term disability, life, and accidental death & dismemberment coverage at less than $28 per bi-weekly pay. Our benefits package is competitive not only in the hospitality industry, but rivals many other industries in the Commonwealth, including manufacturing and retail.
In conclusion immigration is a positive for the U.S. economy and it does not harm the U.S. worker. In fact it is a benefit for the U.S. worker. These immigrants provide a critical piece to our nation's economic success. They supply a relatively young, willing, and able supply of labor, which enables us to continue our economic growth.
To succeed, our economy desperately needs workers at both ends of the spectrum: young and less skilled as well as more educated and highly skilled. As a nation, we are in the midst of a grave shortage of labor due to all of the factors previously discussed. Immigration is not the only factor, but it is a critical one that we cannot succeed without. Without a continued flow of immigrant labor our workforce will fall short of what we need to meet demand. We are hopeful and optimistic that the United States will adopt a more thoughtful immigration policy that accommodates not only the hospitality industry's growth, but also the growth of our nation's economy.
I would like to thank the Committee Members and would be pleased to answer any questions Committee Members may have at this time.