Franchise industry leaders held a roundtable discussion on the topic of franchising’s role in the economy and the impact the recently introduced immigration reform bill could have on franchise businesses today at the Westin Kierland Hotel & Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., in conjunction with the Restaurant Leadership Conference, a gathering of 1,700 restaurant industry participants.
IFA Pres. & CEO Steve Caldeira opened the roundtable by reacting to the recently introduced immigration reform bill by saying, “the Senate Gang of Eight bill includes many of the priorities of the IFA’s goals for immigration reform, including a mandatory e-verify system and a new W-visa program that allows employers to access foreign workers for lesser-skilled jobs, but only after Americans have had the opportunity to fill those jobs first.”
“We see the pendulum swinging on this issue in the direction of having more positions available than we can fill with workers right now, even with a still relatively high rate of unemployment,” said Don Fox, President of Firehouse Subs.
It isn’t just restaurants that are facing difficulties finding workers to fill the forecasted demand for growth in their franchise businesses. Peter Tourian, the founder and CEO of SYNERGY home care, part of the growing non-medical in-home care industry, said immigration reform can help fuel the necessary demand for workers in his growing enterprise. “With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 everyday, the demand for non-skilled care in our industry will continue to grow as this industry grows in the coming years.”
One of the priorities of IFA’s immigration agenda is the inclusion of a federal e-verify system that protects employers who may unknowingly hire illegal employees as a result of worker fraud. Several of the roundtable participants shared their concerns with the current e-verify program, which is mandatory in Arizona and would be mandatory nationwide as part of the Gang of Eight bill.
“There must be safeguards in e-verify to ensure that companies like mine who do the right thing by hiring legal workers are not held liable due to shortfalls in the system,” said Scott Novis, founder and CEO of GameTruck Licensing.
Aslam Khan, the largest franchisee of Church’s Chicken, implemented e-verify at his restaurants last year. “We want to do the right thing and hire legal workers, but as a result we lost many of our best workers who came back as undocumented.”
The event was part of IFA’s integrated advocacy campaign taking place across the country to ensure the franchise industry’s voice is heard in the immigration reform debate. Participants in the Arizona roundtable included Don Fox, CEO, Firehouse Subs, Aslam Khan, CEO, Falcon Holdings (Church’s Chicken, Jack in the Box, Long John Silver, A&W and Schlotzsky’s franchisee), Scott Novis, CEO, GameTruck Licensing, Eddie Goitia, CFO, Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, Steve Chavez, Senior VP of Franchise Operations, Native New Yorker Franchising and Peter Tourian, CEO, SYNERGY HomeCare.