Definition Of Full-Time Hours And A Path To Legal Workforce Dominate Society of American Florist Congressional Action Days

The CapitolGrowers, suppliers, florists and garden retailers gathered March 11 and 12 to review issues important to the floriculture industry, then headed to Capitol Hill to meet with dozens of representatives and senators or their staffs on those issues as part of SAF’s Congressional Action Days.

SAF (The Society of American Florists) selected two issues to be the main talking points during congressional appointments: how to define what is a full-time job and finding a way to ensure a legal and reliable workforce for industry growers.

A Need To Refine How ACA Defines Employees

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complex law, and how it defines employee status has created alarm for SAF and many others in the industry. Specifically, two ACA definitions are in question: What constitutes a full-time employee and how seasonal workers are defined.

Full-Time Status. Currently, ACA defines a full-time work week as 30 hours, a shorter time period than most employers use.

Here’s how it’s phrased in the ACA: “With respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.”

SAF is concerned that the ACA requires employers subject to the statute’s “Shared Responsibility for Employers” provisions to make an affordable offer of coverage to their full-time employees and dependents or face potential penalties.The 30-hour threshold would bring many current part-time employees within this requirement.

Another aspect of the definition that raises concern is the “with respect to any month” phrasing in the law. Traditionally, employers calculate full- and part-time employment on an annual basis. But if it is calculated on a monthly basis for penalties and determining full-time status, that can cause a number of problems.

Determining status on a monthly basis rather than an annual one can lead to confusion about coverage when an employee meets that threshold for one or two months, but none of the others. Does the employer offer coverage for a short amount of time or for the full year? SAF members advocated for the more common definition of 40 hours to be the standard. At the time of the Congressional Action Days visits, SAF was lobbying for two bills to pass:

  • S. 1188: Forty Hours Is Full Time Act Of 2013 in the Senate
  • H.R. 2575: Save American Works Act of 2013 in the House

The House passed H.R. 2575 on April 3, 2014.

Seasonal Employees: SAF members asked their Representatives and Senators to introduce and pass legislation that provides a simple and more accurate calculation for determining seasonal works. They also asked for a clarification that seasonal employment is not full-time employment and to align how seasonality is defined across varying industries and climates.

Another concern SAF has is that seasonal employers believe there is a seasonal exception that removes seasonal workers from the calculation for determining business size and exempts seasonal workers from receiving an offer of coverage. The ACA’s seasonal exception applies only to determining business size, SAF points out, and can only be used by employers whose workforce exceeds 50 full-time equivalent for 120 days or less. And the full-time equivalent includes all hours of service, including seasonal and temporary workers.

SAF objects to both the complexity of how seasonal workers are calculated, especially for smaller employers, and to establishing 120 days as a benchmark for seasonal employment. The 120-day benchmark is not accurate for many businesses across many industries.

As of early April 2014, Congress has not yet taken up the seasonal worker issue.

Giving Foreign Workers A Legal Path To Work

Although the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill in the summer of 2013 (S. 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013), the time allowed for the House to take up the bill is coming to an end. Political maneuvering makes a comprehensive bill unlikely to pass in the foreseeable future, although there is hope that Congress will address immigration reform issue by issue.

In light of this reality, SAF members advocated for Congress to sponsor bills on the issues that most affect the floriculture industry — securing a reliable and legal workforce for growers.

There were two policies the SAF team asked Congress to consider. The first policy was for a bill that creates at-will visas that allow foreign workers to move from grower to grower as crop demands change. The second, backup position was for a more limited visa, in case the first ran into political roadblocks. A contract visa would allow foreign workers to travel to a specified employer, then return to his native country once that contract expired.

The SAF team was quick to point out that this is not a path to citizenship for these workers, but it is a path to give growers a legal, reliable workforce. Speakers at Congressional Action Days claimed that as many as 70 percent of agriculture’s current 1.8 million workers are unauthorized, and many of those are trained, long-term and reliable employees.

The reason for the presence of these workers, SAF points out, is not because of low wages undercutting American’s opportunity to work. Most firms pay rates significantly higher than minimum wage, often with free housing thrown in. The jobs are physically demanding and conducted in all seasons, which makes them unattractive to American workers.

Another issue SAF members lobbied for was for Congress to understand the flaws of the E-Verify system. Employers want to have a quick way to confirm applicants are legal, since un-documented workers being removed later in the season causes significant disruptions. Currently, however, E-Verify is riddled with errors and delays.

Stats That Show The Industry’s Strength

  • Size: Total floriculture sales (including cut flowers, plants and related items) were $34.3 billion in 2012
  • Number Of Floriculture Farms: 26,236

Top 5 Bedding Plants

  1. Geraniums
  2. Impatiens
  3. Petunias
  4. Pansies/Violas
  5. Begonias

 Facts You Might Not Know About Floriculture

  • Tissue culture, first used on orchid plants in the 1950s, led to an entire biotechnology industry.
  • The U.S. Floral industry has taken a leading role in developing methods of non-chemical pest and disease control.
  • Advanced irrigation and fertilization systems first used by the floral industry revolutionized agriculture in arid climates.
Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, According To Study

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses For Greenhouse Growers

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attention To

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, Accord…

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attentio…

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
Lin Schmale 1996

April 23, 2016

SAF’s Lin Schmale Offers Lessons From An Industry…

Schmale represented the floriculture industry on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. The advocate has recently retired, and shares some valuable insights from her career.

Read More
Scott Schaefer Aris CEO

April 22, 2016

New Aris CEO Scott Schaefer Looks Forward To Dealing Wi…

Schaefer, who has been with Aris for 15 years, grew up working at his family’s greenhouse operation in Illinois.

Read More
Krause Berry Farms Farm To Table Dinner

April 20, 2016

What The Floriculture Industry Can Learn From Farm Mark…

Although we have a lot in common with the produce industry, there is much we can learn from one another.

Read More
Janeen Wright

April 18, 2016

Three Lessons From A Master Greenhouse Vegetable Grower

Three lessons from greenhouse vegetable grower Casey Houweling that you can apply to your business.

Read More
Costa Farms Container Ideas E-Book

April 12, 2016

Costa Farms Targets Consumers With New Container Garden…

The electronic book offers tips on container selection, design, and plant care for millennials looking to grow in small spaces.

Read More
An Edible Evening At Stephen F Austin

April 11, 2016

How The Greenhouse Industry Can Propagate Gardeners The…

Jared Barnes at Stephen F. Austin University says we are the experts at propagating plants. That’s knowledge we can put to good use to envision how to attract new gardeners and future horticulturists to the industry.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable …

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Tropical Fruit Tree Selection (Hopkins Tropical Fruit Nursery)

April 7, 2016

University Of Florida Research Shows Consumers Value Lo…

Compared to conventional plants, consumers reported a higher purchasing likelihood for certified organic or organically produced fruit plants.

Read More
Congressional Action Days 2016

April 5, 2016

Floral Industry Leaders Make Progress And (In Some Case…

Nearly 90 floral industry members gathered in the nation’s capital in March to meet with lawmakers in the annual event coordinated by the Society of American Florists.

Read More
Casey Houweling, owner of Houweling's Tomatoes

April 4, 2016

Houweling’s Tomatoes Grows Produce With Mastery Under G…

Houweling’s Tomatoes, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s Excellence in Vegetable Production award for 2015, exceeds industry standards for locally grown produce while pioneering innovative technologies that improve sustainability.

Read More
Student Video Horticulture Education

April 2, 2016

Use Videos Featuring Your Millennial Employees To Recru…

Your Millennial employees may be the best spokespeople you have for your business. Why not encourage them to make a 30-second video talking about why they got into horticulture?

Read More
Random Acts Of Flowers

March 31, 2016

The Floriculture Industry Needs A Unified Message To Pr…

Seeing the sneak preview of the new varieties that will be presented at California Spring Trials (CAST) spurs a visceral reaction in me. I’m giddy and excited about these gorgeous plants, having taken in some of their beauty and excellent performance already at Costa Farms’ Season Premier. I’m excited to travel to Spring Trials and that spring is coming, and I’m ready to dig in and get gardening. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way. And it’s likely that consumers do, too. Nearly a year ago, upon returning from California Spring Trials, I lamented the absence of ideas translated from CAST to retail. The beautiful displays, the breathtaking combinations, the clever marketing — somehow, all of that effort and enthusiasm focused on business-to-business promotion is not being funneled effectively to the consumer. As an industry, we are not good at working together to market our products in a clear, […]

Read More
Sakata Seed America President David Armstrong

March 30, 2016

Sakata Signs Agreement With Indonesian Government To Co…

This week, Sakata Seed Corp. announced internationally that it has signed an agreement with the Republic of Indonesia to cooperate in the further development and production of its line of SunPatiens interspecific hybrid impatiens, based on the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Under an agreement based on the CBD, Sakata Seed has worked with the Indonesian government since the early 2000s to identify the origin of the native germplasm collected in Indonesia to develop SunPatiens, and the two parties have agreed on how the indigenous genetic resources will be used for the further development of SunPatiens. There are currently only a few cases in the world of such an agreement, based on the CBD in the category of horticultural plants, made between a resource-rich country and a commercial seed company. Greenhouse Grower contacted Sakata Seed CEO David Armstrong to provide context about this agreement, what it means […]

Read More
One symptom of Botrytis blight is gray, fuzzy sporulation on foliage and flowers, similar to that shown on the flower of this hibiscus

March 25, 2016

American Floral Endowment Will Fund Research Projects A…

AFE’s primary research funding priorities cover everything from pest control to production management. Funding applications are due June 1.

Read More
NGI-SunPatiens-Compact-Hot-Coral-Sakata

March 23, 2016

P. Allen Smith Says SunPatiens Are Hero Plants For Cons…

Plants that ensure consumer success with disease resistance bred into their genetics, and ease of use in a variety of conditions, are heroes for gardeners, especially beginners, and they should be celebrated and supported to promote gardening success and interest. These are the messages the award-winning designer, gardening, and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith wants the horticulture industry to know, with the recent announcement of his expanded partnership with Sakata Seed. In an exclusive interview with Greenhouse Grower, P. Allen Smith describes his expanded partnership with Sakata Seed to promote SunPatiens and why the now 10-year-old series helps both novice and expert gardeners to be successful. Smith also collaborates with Sakata to promote the HomeGrown Collection of vegetables. SunPatiens Set Consumers Up For Success, Smith Says As a plantsman first, Smith has extensively trialed SunPatiens in his gardens at Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, AR, and says he is […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]