Landscapers, Organizations Address Green Industry Issues in D.C.

Joy Diaz of Land Care of Nevada and her son Joshua with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).Joy Diaz of Land Care of Nevada and her son Joshua with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).

As part of PLANET’s Legislative Day on the Hill, organizations, companies and landscapers stormed the Hill to talk to representatives about several green industry issues.

More than 193 people met with legislators or staff from 25 states, which was a 60 percent increase from the year before, according to PLANET.

Some issues that were discussed include, NPDES permits, H-2B and Lyme disease.

Organizations involved with the event included, Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) and Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA).

PLANET recently released a summary of updates happening with recent green industry issues:

The Department of Labor (DOL) is currently in the process of notifying current H-2B employees of the application of new, higher prevailing wages. Employers have the opportunity to seek reconsideration of the new prevailing wage followed by the opportunity to appeal it administratively to the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). Some PLANET members that use the H-2B program have already received new prevailing wage determinations under the interim final rule issued on April 24 by the DOL and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the DOL, the new wages must be paid upon receipt of this notification.

While the DOL has not clearly outlined its policy, our general understanding, based on information reported by some congressional offices, is that a company may not need to pay the new wage rate pending the outcome of its request to the DOL for reconsideration of the wage or, following that, its appeal to the BALCA. If the appeal is unsuccessful, then the company will be required to pay the wage differential retroactively.

For those needing more information, PLANET members work with their human resources officer, H-2B provider, or legal counsel to determine their best course of action in response to notification of the new wage rates. Note: It’s important to carefully read the letter and follow the instructions contained in it. If an employer doesn’t ask for reconsideration, he or she must begin paying the new wage immediately. 

In the meantime, PLANET is actively lobbying the federal government to provide our members with relief from these massive increases in labor costs. PLANET worked to have fair H-2B wage language included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last month (S. 744). In addition, Reps. Robert J. Wittman (R-Va.) and Rodney Alexander (R-La.) recently introduced the “Save Our Seasons Act of 2013” (H.R. 2765). This legislation, which is similar to the wage language included in the Senate immigration bill, would require the DOL to calculate prevailing wages using a methodology similar to the one it had been using until the DOL and DHS finalized their new rule on April 24.  

Getting Involved:

PLANET needs help to encourage Congress to place additional pressure on the DOL and DHS to rescind their interim final H-2B wage rule. 

  • Send letters to your U.S. representatives and senators asking them to pass legislation that creates a reasonable approach to setting H-2B wages. 
  • Call your member of Congress and senators through the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-225-3121. Once connected to his or her office, ask to speak to the person who handles immigration issues. Explain the significant impact of the new wage rate on your business. Ask your elected officials to contact the DOL and DHS, and to ask them to rescind the rule and replace it with a fair and reasonable approach to setting wages. Also, encourage House members to cosponsor H.R. 2765. 
  • Try to schedule a meeting with your member of Congress and senators when they are back in the home state district office during the August recess. Where possible, try to coordinate with other local H-2B employers and meet with your elected officials as a group. If you recently met with your elected officials during, PLANET’s legislative day, send a thank you note and reiterate your concerns with the new wage rule.
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