Changes concern landscapers using guest worker program
By Kurt Kipp,
Oregon Association of Nurseries
Landscapers who have trouble finding qualified and willing workers have been able to fall back on the H-2B non-agricultural guest worker visa program to fill their needs. Starting on Sept. 30, however, that could become a whole lot more difficult.
H-2B employers have always been subject to certain rules requiring them to search for non-immigrant workers first, and pay the workers a prevailing wage as determined by a scale. The U.S. Department of Labor, however, has announced changes that would result in these costs going up. According to the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), landscapers using H-2B should expect to pay an additional $3.60 in hourly wages to these workers.
The ANLA, as well as the Professional Landscare Network (PLANET) are further concerned that this could drive up wages for other landscape employees as well, even if they don’t have the same qualifications. This is why the ANLA, PLANET and other organizations are hoping to block the new rules before they take effect. PLANET recently circulated a letter asking for contributions to fund a lawsuit against the rules.
According to Craig Regelbrugge of the ANLA, there’s another proposed U.S. Department of Labor rule that would go even further, requiring H-2B employers to hire any qualified U.S. worker for the job for up to three days before the H-2B worker is scheduled to begin. This would be required even after the employer has sought and failed to find U.S. workers, identified a H-2B worker, gone through the process, and paid for transportation, housing and other fees. The ANLA is looking at options with regard to this rule, as well.
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