Last Chance to Extend H-2B Reforms?
Monday, May 2, 2016
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
Washington, D.C. - H-2B Workforce Coalition and our national associations, AmericanHort and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), are calling for a fly-in to Washington D.C. May 18 in attempt to persuade Congress to extend the recent hard-won reforms to the H-2B guest worker program. These reforms, signed in to law by President Obama only last December, expire with the federal budget on September 30.
The provisions included in the bill include many of the H2B reforms that the green industry had been seeking for the past several years, plus some more urgent reforms needed in light of the recently issued H-2B regulations. The provisions include:
- Exempts H-2B returning workers from the 66,000 annual cap;
- Addresses H-2B wages and allow the use of private wage surveys, which were not allowed under the 2015 final H-2B wage rule;
- Clearly defines seasonal as 10 months, as opposed to the 9 months in the new interim final H-2B comprehensive rule;
- Prevents DOL from implementing the provisions of the interim final rule (IFR) related to corresponding employment and the three-quarters guarantee; and
- Prevents DOL from implementing the new burdensome DOL enforcement scheme in the IFR related to audits and Certifying Officer (CO) assisted recruitment.
But even with the returning worked exemption, the H-2B cap was hit in March, leaving many landscape contractors unable to get the workers they desperately needed to start the spring season.
Running out the Clock?
The short time frame in which these reforms have life has led to foot-dragging on the part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in implementing the new provisions. They are trying to run out the clock until September 30. Processing delays, which in a normal year are widespread, this year have been the worst anyone has experienced.
Crank up the Pressure
The only hope is for the industry to crank up the pressure on Congress to extend permanently the reforms they passed last December and turn up the heat on the DOL and DHS to implement them in good faith. This will not happen easily.
So, yes, it’s spring and it’s hard to get away, but if H-2B workers are an important component of your workforce, you cannot afford not to be in Washington on May 18. As the year wears on and the election heats up, it won’t be long before we lose any chance to get the attention of Congress on this issue. So it’s now or… who knows?
For more information on the fly-in/drive-in on May 18th get in touch Gregg Robertson at PLNA (717) 533-2056.