Rep. Francis Rooney’s Bill Would Help Agencies Control Payroll Costs, Better Serve Clients
Alexandria, VA, May 18, 2017 – The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is praising today’s introduction of The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act by Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL 19th), which would remove travel agencies from an arbitrary regulatory “blacklist” that blocks them from utilizing an exemption from federal overtime rules designed for retail businesses.
“Not only do their employees necessarily work irregular hours helping clients facing travel disruptions, but travel agencies are the very picture of retail businesses and we think it’s indefensible that agencies are denied use of this exemption from overtime rules,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA’s President and CEO. “We are incredibly grateful to Congressman Rooney for taking up this fight on behalf of the 48 ASTA members in Florida’s 19th Congressional District and the broader industry, and will do everything in our power to see this bill through to enactment.”
“Eliminating harmful regulations on our small business community is a key component of economic growth and job creation,” said Congressman Rooney, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which oversees labor issues. “The idea that travel agencies ‘lack a retail concept’ and therefore must be subject to federal overtime rules is arbitrary and overreaching. The exemption travel agencies are seeking is in line with similar industries and should be granted immediately.”
The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act, introduced today, directs the Secretary of Labor to revise its regulations to remove travel agencies from the partial list of establishments having no retail concept within 90 days. In the interim, the bill states that “a travel agency shall not be considered an establishment having no retail concept” for the purposes of the RSE exemption. It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
“We commend Congressman Rooney for his leadership on this issue, which will provide a measure of regulatory relief to local small businesses while supporting an integral part of the broader travel industry so critical to Florida’s economy,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs, who has worked closely with Congressman Rooney’s staff in the lead-up to the bill’s introduction. “We agree with Mr. Rooney that travel agencies should have an opportunity to claim the RSE exemption if they qualify for it. This is a fight worth fighting.”
The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act will be at the top of the list of policy issues ASTA members will discuss with their Members of Congress during ASTA Legislative Day on June 7, 2017. ASTA members wishing to attend are encouraged to register for the event before the May 26 cutoff date.
ASTA DOL Blacklist Issue – A Timeline
The introduction of industry-specific legislation like the Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act doesn’t simply happen on its own – it is the result of a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work on Capitol Hill and requires a permanent Washington presence like that provided by a national trade association. This is certainly true here, and below is a timeline of key dates in ASTA’s ongoing efforts to remove travel agencies from the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Retail or Service Establishment (RSE) regulatory blacklist.
July 2015 – DOL releases proposal to dramatically increase the salary threshold under which virtually all employees are guaranteed overtime pay will increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, with automatic increases in future years.
September 2015 – ASTA files comments on the DOL proposal, focusing on the salary threshold but referencing the RSE blacklist.
March 2016 – First round of ASTA meetings with representatives of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
April 2016 – ASTA meets with DOL staff to discuss the blacklist.
May 2016 – DOL issues final overtime rule increasing the salary threshold, effective December 1, 2016.
August 2016 – ASTA files 41-page petition with DOL to have travel agencies removed from the RSE blacklist.
November 2016 – Federal court blocks implementation of DOL overtime salary threshold increase.
December 2016 – DOL denies ASTA’s blacklist petition.
January 2017 – Second round of meetings with Senate HELP, House Education and the Workforce staffers.
February 2017 – ASTA meets with the office of Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL 19th).
March/April/May 2017 – ASTA holds almost 20 Congressional meetings seeking support for The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act, focusing on the Florida Congressional delegation.
May 18, 2017 – Rep. Francis Rooney introduces The Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act
ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, it is the leading global advocate for travel agents, the travel industry and the traveling public. ASTA’s history of travel industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information, visit ASTA.org.
ASTA’s sister association, The National Association of Career Travel Agents, represents a professional community of independent travel agents ready to assist the traveling public.