Legislative Issues and Areas of Concern

According to the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), our industry and many small businesses across the country are under attack by federal agencies that seem to be out of control. One would think the bad economy would slow them down, but following are a few issues of concern:

Rules would gag employers, threaten jobs

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Department of Labor (DOL) released proposed rules that are designed to work in conjunction to limit communication by employers to employees about unions attempting to organize their employees. The rules, which were released within one day of each other, appear to be an orchestrated maneuver designed to deny employees crucial information needed to make an informed decision about whether or not to pay for union representation. The proposals serve to achieve the goals of the legislatively dormant Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). These proposed rules can negatively affect our industry, so PLANET will be tracking this.

H-2B visa program

A final DOL rule, slated to go into effect October 1, 2011, will artificially increase H-2B hourly wages by more than 50 percent. The new DOL regulations will make this vital program virtually unworkable for seasonal employers. According to the DOL’s own estimates, the rule will increase H-2B wages for landscaping services by about $3.60 per hour. The actual cost to H-2B users could be far greater than the DOL’s estimates, because the DOL does not account for labor increases for similarly employed American workers or more experienced American workers whose pay should reflect the greater skill or experience level and be proportional to the hourly wage earned by lesser-skilled workers.

A second DOL proposed rule, published in the March 18, 2011, Federal Register, would make the program even more expensive and complicated to use. The rule would require employers to hire any qualified U.S. worker up to three days before an H-2B worker is scheduled to begin, even though the employer has already offered the job to the H-2B worker, assisted with the visa process, and paid transportation, housing and other associated fees.

Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164) with provisions that include:

Repeal of I-9 System: H.R. 2164 repeals the current paper-based I-9 system and replaces it with a completely electronic work-eligibility check.
Gradual Phase-in: Phases in mandatory E-Verify participation for new hires.
Federal Preemption: Preempts state laws mandating E-Verify use for employment eligibility purposes, but retains the ability of states and localities to condition business licenses on the requirement that the employer use E-Verify in good faith under the federal law.
Safe Harbor: Grants employers safe harbor from prosecution if they use the E-Verify program in good faith, and through no fault of theirs, receive an incorrect eligibility confirmation.

What concerns PLANET about this bill is that if you get a Social Security No Match Letter you will be required to use E-Verify.

If you would like more information about any of these issues, go to the Government Affairs tab on the PLANET Web site (LandcareNetwork.org), and click on Position Statements to read the Day on the Hill issue papers on these issues and more.

Article provided by PLANET.

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