The figures, intertwined as they are with the heavy construction industry, are hard to pin down. But if you’re like many landscapers in the United States today, odds are you depend heavily on Hispanic workers to get your daily work and big projects done. According to the Washington D.C.-based American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), as many as 70 percent to 80 percent of Hispanic workers on the nursery side of the landscaping industry are not properly documented. And as any American knows, immigration – particularly illegal immigration – has become a political hot topic in the past year.
But politics aside, immigrant workers are a fact of life for U.S. landscaping contractors. “This is a fundamental issue for the health of our industry,” says John Farner Jr., director of legislative relations for ANLA. “The workday starts and ends with labor. If you don’t have the labor, then everything else on a project is moot. So we’re working hard to ensure that the landscapers can retain the immigrant employees they have and trust now, but also have a flow of legal, qualified workers available to them in the future.”
Lost in the din of the immigration debate, Farner says, is the fact that current and proposed immigration laws do not reflect reality. “The immigration laws are broken,” he maintains. “And ANLA has been saying that for more than 10 years. This isn’t an illegal immigration problem. It’s a legal immigration problem. And not only do these laws not work, they are not being enforced. But even if they were followed to the letter, they would not meet the economic needs of our nation.”
If just half of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States went home tomorrow, the impact on the landscaping industry would be nothing short of devastating, Farner says. “The remaining Hispanic workers would be in demand from other sectors such as the construction and restaurant industries,” he explains. “These workers aren’t stupid. Given a choice and suddenly being in demand, they’re going to choose a job that allows them to be indoors or earn a higher wage. And that’s not always possible working at a landscaping company.”
Give the realities of today’s ultra-competitive labor market, it’s a good bet you’re either already using Hispanic laborers on your landscaping jobs, or you’re considering it.
This Special Report reflects the reality of the job market and the hard choices you have to make in order to run a successful business. You’ll get the human angle as we look at the landscaping business from the viewpoint of a legal immigrant who desperately wants to become a permanent resident.
You’ll also learn how to protect your business, operate legally under the current immigration laws and what you can expect from future legislation. Finally, you’ll learn how to bridge the culture gaps that sometimes keep Anglos and Hispanics from working together as efficiently and productively as possible.
But we’ve done our part. The rest is up to you. Work with your elected officials. Let them know how important continued access to a qualified work force is for your business and the green industry.